7 Legal Myths to Debunk
Folks believe a lot of things about lawyers that may or may not be true. Sometimes we hear these in good-natured jokes, and other times they are simply assumptions that potential clients have, even though they may not be accurate.
It’s important to dispel these myths because it could make the difference between a person picking up the phone and calling your law firm or dismissing the thought altogether. Members of the public have misconceptions about the legal field. So as lawyers, you can educate the public as well as negotiate their claims and litigate in the courtroom.
By debunking myths, you can put clients’ minds at ease and encourage them to embrace their legal rights. And to hire a lawyer!
Common Myths About Lawyers
Here are some common myths people have about lawyers, either consciously or unconsciously.
It Costs a Lot of Money to Hire a Lawyer
This isn’t true in some cases. In fact, when lawyers work on contingency — such as in many personal injury cases — it costs nothing up front to hire a lawyer. Lacking substantial funds at the outset should never be a reason not to contact an attorney if you have a viable claim. Reminding potential clients in ads and on your website that an initial consultation is free is one way of giving you the opportunity to inform people that they don’t have to possess a wad of cash to get the ball rolling. Let them know that attorneys’ fees are paid by defendants in a settlement or successful jury award.
I’m Not the Kind of Person Who Sues
Some people feel that suing another person is somehow not polite or nice, and this can cause them to be reluctant to file a lawsuit. It’s important to remind them that it’s actually the insurance company, in many cases, that they’re suing, and that’s why entities have insurance in the first place.
A Lawyer Must Be Argumentative to Be Successful
Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly you want your criminal defense lawyer and sometimes your divorce lawyer to be tough and even confrontational, but a lot of estate planning, bankruptcy and business lawyers know that a collaborative approach to the law can be more effective. As with most things, one size doesn’t fit all with attorneys. If you specialize in an area of law where potential clients are looking for guidance and reassurance, be sure to convey that on your website and in the tone used to answer calls to your firm.
Attorneys Speak in Legal Jargon and Are Hard to Understand
This can be true, but it’s important to convey to your clients that it’s not true about you. No person wants to feel intimidated when they sit down with a lawyer, worried that they’ll feel dumb and get lost in the conversation. You want a client to retain their dignity – especially if they’re discussing difficult topics – so assessing a client’s conversation style and level of education is important. You never want to talk down to a client, but you also don’t want to pepper them with multi-syllabic, arcane terms that leave them guessing and embarrassed.
Lawyers Are in Cahoots with Police, Judges and Prosecutors
Clients don’t tend to see attorneys at 9 p.m. with their sleeves rolled up, eating a stale turkey sandwich and poring over a cryptic statute. Many people think of lawyers as high-flyers who charge exorbitant hourly rates and vacation on yachts. The reason it’s important to debunk this myth is to dissolve potential resentments against a lawyer and focus on providing value. Look for opportunities to share offhand stories about the family dog or ketchup on the tie – when appropriate – to demonstrate that you’re a regular guy who simply has a lot of knowledge, skill and experience.
Lawyers Can Win Every Case
This simply isn’t true. Sometimes a person calls a law firm, and an attorney quickly realizes that that the person doesn’t have a strong enough case to be successful. In some instances, they have no case at all, no matter how much they feel they’ve been wronged. Or maybe the case is simply too small for your firm or outside your practice areas. While most lawyers feel comfortable telling a person the truth about the lack of viability of their case, it’s important to remember to manage your brand and reputation when you’re saying “no.” Be sure to listen courteously, be empathetic and look for opportunities for referrals. The case may be too small or not right for you, but you may have a legal colleague who would happily take the case.
Now You Know the Myths, Here’s How to Dispel Them
You Are Your Best Advertisement
There are small opportunities every day, many of which don’t cost a cent, to dispel legal myths that may be limiting your business and your bottom line. The way you carry yourself, enter a room and speak to people are all advertisements about who you are and the quality of your services. Take another look at your attorney bio page on your website. Does it focus only on your accomplishments and education, or does it show some of your personality and share your interests? Perhaps you could make some edits.
Attorney bio pages are some of the most frequently viewed pages by site visitors. They want to know who you are before they contact you.
Want to see how breaking down these myths can directly impact your bottom line? Check out your client reviews. If you don’t have many Google reviews, start asking your happy clients to leave one for you. If you have a lot, ask for more. Nudge those clients to comment on how you treated them and how approachable you are. If you’re worried about what they would say, listen to your inner voice and don’t ask for that review. Instead, take the hint to make yourself a little less “lawyerly” and a little more “human.” You may be surprised by the impact of a review that describes how well you treated a client – it can drive more clients to your door.
You’re not done yet. There are other ways to take apart these myths. Look for opportunities to act counter to common myths and be approachable. It may be worthwhile to ask a trusted friend or office staff about how you are generally perceived. You may be surprised by the answer. Or you may feel validated that your efforts are right on point. Either way, it’s information about how your firm’s image and brand are being perceived among the public. And that is always great information to have.
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