Expertise is the price for being considered. Once a client seriously considers hiring you or your firm, their expectation is that you can perform the required work. If not, they wouldn’t be talking to you. What’s common or expected is not a differentiator.

Expertise Establishes Credibility, But that’s a Low Bar

It’s easy for potential clients to determine if you know what you’re talking about. Your firm’s web site, your LinkedIn profile, social media, and word-of-mouth are just a few of the myriad ways potential clients can learn indirectly about you and your practice.

So, why do so many lawyers pitch potential clients by talking endlessly about skills and credentials well after the client has checked that box? They do so because they think like experts rather than clients. While they recognize the large role “relationships” play, they assume the fundamental decision criteria are logical: skills (credentials are a proxy), fees, and the firm’s range of offerings.

An Emotional Decision

Getting considered and getting selected use different criteria. Consideration uses a minimum bar. When you can credibly claim to be able to do the required work, you’re cleared for consideration. Selection sets a new and higher bar. To be selected, the client must see you as the best choice for their situation, needs, and resources.

Experts are reactive, they answer questions. Advisors are proactive, they create impact. Click To Tweet

If that sounds imprecise and subjective, that’s because it is. Research shows logic plays a much bigger role in justifying the decision already made by emotion than in determining what that decision will be. Emotion over logic holds even for complex purchases such as hiring a lawyer. This is why people hire people they like.

Impact Marries Emotion and Logic

Clients are best served when emotion and logic align. You do this by framing your role in terms of impact on the client. To the client, you feel like the right choice, and the choice makes sense logically. From the client’s perspective, the decision feels easy.

Impact is how you will change or protect the client and their business.

Drafting a sales contract per the client’s instructions is a task requiring expertise. It’s a legal document that thousands of lawyers can prepare. However, to the business owner it’s not just a legal document. A good sales contract enables their company to close business faster while collecting their money sooner and with more certainty. More money faster and with greater assurance generates positive ripples across their entire company.

Impact requires expertise, yes, and a lot more. Impact requires broad familiarity with the client’s entire business. To the client, a lawyer who creates impact becomes an advisor—an advisor with expertise in the law. Compared to the Expert, the Advisor is more valuable and the easy choice.

Experts are reactive, they answer questions.

Advisors are proactive, they create impact.

Epilogue: Which Comes First: Expertise or Impact?

It depends.

If a client is already consider-ing you, it’s a fair bet they see you as credible. Your job then becomes demonstrating you are the best choice for them. In these situations (e.g. business put out for bid), discussing impact demonstrates your understanding of their needs and situation. Doing it well makes you the easy choice.

If instead, you are trying to generate demand from a client who is uncertain about the benefits of your services, the process is reversed. They must first see a desirable impact (something they want). Only once they believe your impact is relevant to their situation will they inquire about your credibility to deliver.

In both cases, impact is critical for getting hired.