With stay-at-home orders in many states expiring, more businesses are planning to reopen. As an attorney at a solo or small law firm, you may be among the millions of people who own or work at a small business that are planning a return to the office. As you contemplate when and how to safely open your doors to the public, it’s important to plan for ways to connect and communicate with clients and prospects while following recommended social-distancing guidelines.

For attorneys, virtual consultations provide an easy and cost-effective way to see, communicate and connect with current and prospective clients. From a technology standpoint, conducting a virtual consult is simple – all you need is a computer or smartphone with a camera and the ability to log on to a video platform like Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. However, from an interpersonal and professional standpoint, virtual consults pose several challenges. In this post, we offer tips for how to build and maintain rapport and provide optimum service to clients virtually.

Why Offer Video Consults?

Even as businesses reopen their doors, there will be people who want to avoid donning a mask and assuming the health risks associated with going into an office for a face-to-face meeting. While virtual consults are a safer and more-convenient option, they also come with inevitable technology hiccups, awkward delays, unexpected interruptions, and background noise and distractions. To ensure you are providing an experience that will leave current and prospective clients feeling assured and confident in your abilities, attorneys who plan to offer virtual consultations would be wise to prepare.

Video Consults: Common Pitfalls And Best Practices

As you venture into the virtual communications realm, there are several important things to keep in mind, including:

There’s a learning curve: Technical glitches, including sound and video issues are quite common and, if you’re not prepared, can quickly derail any virtual meeting. While these types of issues may be difficult to avoid altogether, understanding how to troubleshoot common problems — whether on your end or a prospective client’s – can turn a frustrating and fruitless virtual encounter into one that is pleasant and productive.

Location matters: When conducting a video consult, it’s best to find a quiet and private place. If you’re in the office, this likely won’t be an issue. However, if you’re conducting a consult from home, make sure to select a location where you won’t be interrupted by pets, family members, or your neighbor’s lawnmower. It’s also important to pay attention to what’s in your background. The last thing you want, is to have the person on the other end distracted or somehow put off by what’s on your television, bookshelf, or wall. Keep your background well-lit, clutter-free, and neutral with regard to political or other types of insignia.

Dress to impress: When it comes to selecting what to wear for a video consult, the safest bet is to dress like you’re going to work (i.e. don’t jump on a conference call in your workout gear). If you normally don a suit and tie or blazer when communicating with clients face to face, do the same via video. Stick with muted colors (nothing too bright or flashy) and keep accessories simple and understated. You want people to focus on the information you’re sharing, and that may not happen if they’re distracted by something you’re wearing.

Practice, practice, practice: Communicating virtually can be challenging and, if not well-prepared, an otherwise promising meeting could result in a missed opportunity for your firm. Even the most seasoned attorneys can falter when conducting a video consult. Most videoconference platforms have an in-screen bubble that allows you to see yourself and make sure you are squarely in the camera’s frame. When speaking, make sure to enunciate and speak at an appropriate volume. Also, understand that there may be a delay in the audio and let the other party know up front that you are not trying to interrupt or talk over them.

Offering virtual consults demonstrates your firm’s preparedness and adaptability. It also shows that you are cognizant and considerate of prospective clients’ needs. In an effort to help attorneys easily connect with prospective clients, FindLaw directory clients, who have profiles on FindLaw.com, SuperLawyers.com, and LawInfo.com, can now add a Virtual Appointment icon to their profiles to indicate they offer this option. Adding this icon provides an easy way for solo and small law firms to promote their videoconferencing capabilities and connect with prospective and current clients who do not wish to meet face to face.

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