There are two key moments in your client’s relationship with you that can make or break that relationship. The day you deliver the outcome or work product and the day they first become your client.

The first day is the most important of the two because it influences everything that happens after that.

New clients are often nervous, worried about their situation, and not yet sure they can trust you or the legal system. You may have met with them or spoken to them before, but everything changes when they write that first check.

Your new client onboarding process is your first and best opportunity to make them feel good about their decision to hire you, set the stage for a successful outcome, and lay the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

When you do it right, the new client will have more confidence in you, be more hopeful about their situation, know what to expect and what they can do to help you help them.

No pressure.

Okay, there’s pressure. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your onboarding process, and to regularly update and improve it.

Start with a list of goals. What do you want the new client to know, what do you want them to do, and most importantly, how do you want them to feel after they leave your office?

Then, make a list of what you can do to achieve those goals.

What will you tell them about

  • Their case
  • The law
  • The process and time table
  • Contingencies, risks, and options
  • Your office, staff, and resources
  • What happens first, what happens after that
  • What to do if they have questions
  • What you want them to do, and not do
  • What to expect about fees and costs

Will you introduce them to your staff? Give them a tour of your office?

Will you give them or send them (or direct them to download) any forms, checklists, documents—things to read and things to fill out?

And, because relationships can’t be only about the work, what will you ask about them about their personal life, and what will tell them about yours?

You’re not going to give them everything on their first visit—you don’t want to overwhelm them. Figure out what you will do immediately and schedule the rest.

When they leave your office, you want them to feel a sense of relief, knowing that their problem is in good hands. You’ll prove that to them in the weeks and months that follow, but it all starts on day one.