Realtors appreciate the value of curb appeal.
Lawyers, not so much.
These days curb appeal is more important than ever. That’s because the curb is no longer just a strip of concrete by the road outside your building. It includes any view of your office – inside, outside and online – that shows up on websites, internet maps, Google Hangouts, youtube videos or Skype.
What do outsiders – particularly clients – see when they look at your law office?
What do your physical premises say about you? What values are projected? Stability, orderliness, efficiency, success? Or shakiness, disorder, wastefulness, a mess?
But when it comes to evaluating the curb appeal of our own offices, we are probably not the best judges. That’s because of the phenomenon known as “familiarity blindness” – if we are too close to something we may not see it accurately. Or at all.
The blog Attorney at Work suggests a neat exercise. Every few months or so, put yourself in the shoes of a prospective client. Actually go through the process of locating your law office and finding your way there for an initial conference. Even better, ask a friend to do so.
Start with the contact information on your website. Is it up to date? Is the phone number accurate?
Look up the driving directions. Are you guided to the correct address? Pull into the visitor’s parking. Can you read the signage? Is it easy to locate your suite? Stroll into the visitor’s lobby. Is the seating comfortable? Are the magazines current? What do you see, smell and hear?
The idea, of course, is to strip off the blinders and inspect your practice with fresh eyes.
6 Tips For Enhancing Curb Appeal
- Keep files out of view. Few things are more disconcerting to a new client than stepping into an office that is overflowing with paper. Files are piled on desks, stacked in corners and spilling onto the floor for the whole world to see. So much for confidentiality. Prospective clients will understandably worry that their files will soon be on top of – or under – that manila mountain.
- Neatness counts. Presentation is important. Just ask the judges on Dancing With the Stars. Schedule a Saturday housecleaning. Make it fun. Put on music and order pizza. It’s for safety as much as show. Clutter and chaos result in missed deadlines and disciplinary complaints, says Mark Bassingthwaighte of the Attorney’s Liability Protection Society.
- Tidy your virtual space. Does your online image need a facelift? When was the last time you changed your photo or updated your bio? Is the content fresh? Hire a professional if you can’t do it yourself. An online makeover will also boost your Google search rankings.
- Clean up your Call to Action. Your website, blog, Facebook page and other online sites should have a simple, easy-to-access Call to Action: Click Here to Talk With a Lawyer. Get Your Free Guide to Worker’s Compensation. Download This Valuable Checklist on Health Insurance.
- Buy a paintbrush. Color influences buying decisions. Décor affects feelings. “Professional doesn’t have to mean dull and drab,” writes Chicago designer Joan Feldman. “Color can add personality and flair, or create a sense of serenity.” A paintjob is cheap, quick and easily reversible.
- Comfort counts. Make sure visitors have access to a washroom – and by all means keep it clean. Consider setting aside a private client workspace as well. Offer a cool – or warm – drink while they are waiting.
If your office is professional, comfortable and inviting, clients will come on in. Otherwise they will pull over to the curb, take one glance and keep on driving.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. His curb is tidy. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.