From summer clerkship to my switch to “Of Counsel”, I always wore a coat and tie to the office. I readily admit I now like my business casual attire, unless I am in court or at a lawyerly function. Despite that, I still suggest to young lawyers that they are making first impressions every day, and they matter.
As my office approaches 50/50 female to male lawyers, I note that the females tend to dress and appear more professional than the male lawyers. I suggest this “impression” you are creating matters not only with other lawyers, but significantly with clients. Dressing and acting professionally makes a difference. You never know when you are making that first impression.
You will find this odd, but back in the day we were encouraged to wear coats and ties to law school classes and that was six days a week the first year. They were conditioning us to the transition to a professional school. Times change and by my third year that standard eased. In the 1990’s baseball hat era, a law school professor friend had to remind students to take their hats off in class by saying: “There is a good trade school at the bottom of High Street if that is what you want.” My late mother-in-law could not believe that people ate dinner out wearing hats. In the days when women sometimes wore hair curlers in public, she was known to say: “I wonder where she is going that is more important than where she is.”
Since I generally write about law firms and loss prevention, I do not want you to think I am now just being fashion conscious. It goes beyond that to first and other impressions that get you business and, believe it or not, keep you from getting sued. I recall two new files and when I asked the source, the management types said they had been left on hold by the receptionist at the XYZ law firm. Reception and telephone staff are key figures in a lawyer’s good impression with clients. Lawyers who answer their telephones and promptly return calls and electronic messages are part of that impression. Think of all the things that irritate you and do not do those yourself. Work with your staff on first impressions and client relations and you will have happier clients who will refer you to others and repeat their business with you. It really is basic and about impressions by both you and your staff.
An older article on the subject by the loss prevention staff at ALPS (https://t.co/WqMNLpuXmr) made me revisit this subject. It fit with my talks to law firm staff over the years about the importance of their role. It also points out that we lawyers can benefit by learning good “customer” service by using good sense and making good impressions.
“Impression: An idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, often formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.” Dictionary definition. Sometimes we lawyers need to stop our daily rush and think about these little things like this that distinguish successful lawyers from those that do not bother.