The Problem With Being Friendly (Part One)

A common problem for law firms seems to be how to find ways to encourage potential clients to make contact that all-important first time.

“81 percent of the public find the justice system intimidating” says the SRA (Consumers of legal services – levels of unmet legal need). Other professionals may work in less intimidating environments, but to lay-people, professionals are more like Headteachers than Teaching Assistants.

One answer that – on the face of it – makes sense is to tell these people that you are friendly.

Most people faced with a legal advice need for the first time go online to research the problem and then potential providers.

The problem is that they will find around 75% of law firms call themselves 'friendly' on their website.

(It does seem to vary around the country – my rough- and-ready survey of England shows one county town with just over 10% using the word, to three county towns at 90% plus.)

Solicitors' firms claiming to be friendly

So a would-be client can't really use it as grounds for choosing between firms.

And as they survey websites and notice that a majority have the term... and their intuition might perhaps wonder why they say that.

What to do?

1. One possibility is to go back to school

Do you remember 'show & tell'?
Maybe the 'show' part is better than the 'tell' method, in blog stories to illustrate your friendliness.

2. Another option is to show the results of a client survey about friendliness.

(That might be one question amongst others, but the only result displayed in this way.) And because the research is about your firm, you can use this to differentiate yourselves from your competitors.

3. A third approach might be to replace the word with a semantically similar word.

For example, instead of 'friendly', try 'welcoming', 'approachable', 'good-at-listening', etc.

Explicit welcome is especially relevant to greet visitors on your Homepage - it is one of the two keys for human choice optimisation that can nudge visitors towards contacting you via small-but-powerful shifts in style.

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