Monday, July 3, 2017

Invest in Support Staff to Support Client Satisfaction


Of course client satisfaction is high when you win the case, or negotiate a favorable settlement, but client satisfaction can exist even when the outcome isn’t quite so terrific, which is important, since it’s client satisfaction that allows your practice to grow and develop.

Support staff is essential to client satisfaction: it’s up to you to make sure support staff has what they need to take good care of your clients. Too often, in your preoccupation with all that’s on your plate, you expect support staff to figure things out for themselves. To an extent, that’s fine--but you’ll benefit from giving your staff specific training in client services, as well as the authority to perform certain service-oriented tasks for the client. Good one-day seminars are worth their weight in gold. Invest in staff so they can return that investment many times over in client satisfaction.

Don’t leave staff out of regular updates as to what the firm is doing, why and how, so that support staff feels they are part of the law firm, not just hired underlings. Your law firm is more successful if all those involved are working in the same direction toward the same end.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Jury-Swaying Power of “Little” Words

You’d think a little word like “a” or “the” wouldn’t have any importance, when you’re crafting your opening or your closing. And yet . . .”a” and “the” are powerful ways to focus the jurors’ attention where you want it. Not where the jurors’ attention will roam, left to its own devices.

“A” refers generically to an undefined object. “The” refers specifically to a defined object. “Did you see a man with a limp?” does not focus the jurors’ attention in the same way as “Did you see the man with the limp?” does. The use of “the” presupposes that the man exists, the limp exists, and thus that the only thing in question is whether or not the witness saw the man. People will search their memories more assiduously given the subconscious message that the man with the limp exists, than they would if asked whether they saw “a man” with “a limp” – which contains no such subconscious assumption.

Similarly, notice the differential impact of such words as “frequently,” “occasionally,” “sometimes” and “often.” Studies have shown that when people were asked if they had headaches “frequently,” they answered, on average, “2.2 headaches per week.” Whereas if asked if they had headaches “occasionally,” they answered, on average, “0.7 headaches per week.” Such is the power of “little” words! Use them wisely.    

Monday, May 1, 2017

Help Your Witness Past an Angry Knee-Jerk Response

Witnesses may be angry for a variety of reasons. Regardless, an angry witness rarely testifies convincingly at deposition or trial. When dealing with such a witness, start by acknowledging that your witness’s anger is understandable and legitimate, but unfortunately, detrimental to effective testimony. Remind your witness that you are the advocate, ready, willing and able to be righteously indignant, angry or whatever else is appropriate when it is appropriate. Then work with your witness to assure solid testimony.

With the aid of video-taped role play, drill your witness on the critical “Answer the question asked.” The higher the emotional stakes, the more important it is for your witness to really listen to the question, and respond appropriately and dispassionately. As best you can, replicate the stress of cross-examination to help your witness learn how to maintain their composure during deposition or trial.

One way to do that is via the “breathe” technique, whereby your witness learns to breathe, as in take a deep breath, before attempting to answer an emotionally charged question. If necessary, to then ask to have the question repeated, which again, buys the witness time to settle his/her emotions, such that the response is more reasoned and level-headed.