Career Managing Self Personal Development

A is for “adapting” to the client interview

Written by Paulette Pommells

I am so pleased to be writing about career and professional development topics for lawyers by using the alphabet as a guide. This is my second run-through. Thanks for keeping me onboard AWAL!

There is one struggle that transcends my coaching clients – both seasoned and new lawyers: how to relate to a prospective client on a human level in an initial interview.

A disconnect can occur if the lawyer doesn’t see that from the client’s perspective, their legal issue is simply a problem that needs fixing. In other words, all the rules and principles of building customer loyalty still apply.

The research of Chris Malone and Susan Fiske (The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products and Companies) is instrumental in teaching my coaching clients that 82% of client behaviour can be predicted by the perception of “warmth” and “competence” (p.4). A prospective client wants to see both qualities before retaining a lawyer. This combination inspires a sense of trust and confidence.

Lawyers, traditionally, tend to be heavy on the competence. And this makes sense. It’s all they’ve been taught throughout law school and beyond. When it comes to displaying warmth, my coaching clients will often argue against its place in a legal setting. Then I share with them the following observations from Malone and Fiske’s research and their attitude suddenly changes:

“One who displays competence, in the absence of warmth…tends to leave us feeling envious and suspicious…” (p. 2).

Faced with the option of inspiring trust and confidence in a prospective client over envy and suspicion, my coaching clients immediately buy into the process of establishing their warmth. I’ve not met one lawyer who wants their clients feeling suspicious about them!

The Adaptation

The beauty in helping my coaching clients to establish their warmth is that it already exists. Warmth can be kindness, friendliness, sincerity, honesty, understanding, etc. These are things that represent one’s intentions, the things that matter most to someone.

I see my role as helping my coaching clients to adapt to the client interview by figuring out how they can showcase these values in an appropriate way.

Because each person has a unique set of values, I help my coaching clients to figure out what those are in order to come up with a tailored approach for their client interviews. The result is an increased awareness to including the prospective client in both the design process and execution of a client interview.

Take “Mary,” for example. Mary’s personal values include respect, concern for others and meaning. After a series of workshops with me, Mary was able to come up with a checklist of Initial Client Meeting Retention Strategies. For each of her values, she listed specific action items or things she could say to demonstrate that value. Mary looks at this checklist before each client interview and reports that this holistic approach has drastically improved her client acquisition rates.


For more information about how Lawyer Coach Paulette can help you reassess your law practice and find ways to overcome obstacles, please e-mail her to set up a 30-minute complimentary call at


“Job interview” by baskleingeltink is licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0


About the author

Paulette Pommells

I am a certified coach with a creative approach to bring out the best of the 21st Century Lawyer! A 21st Century Lawyer myself, I was faced with a professional dilemma years ago: I had become a “successful” lawyer, and yet something didn't feel right. One day, I hired a career coach and realized how similar coaching is to the legal strategy process. I decided to share this breakthrough with every single lawyer. Today, Creative Choices™ is a sought-after technique by lawyers, law students and law firms when it comes to professional challenges of all kinds. You can learn more about this on my website or by emailing me at

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.