As a personal injury lawyer, you’ll be talking to clients a lot about the potential compensation they could receive. This is an important topic for many reasons; not only is it going to be the gateway to your potential interactions, it could also dictate the expectations and spending habits your clients take on once they enlist your legal services. It’s therefore your responsibility to set accurate expectations, but how can you accomplish this?
Areas of Communication
First, identify the key communication channels you’ll use to talk about compensation:
- Most lawyers attempt to illustrate the potential payout of a personal injury compensation case on their website. They may list some of the recent payouts they’ve seen, or ones that have made headlines, or they may offer details like median or average payouts in different situations.
- Marketing materials. Another common area for compensation communication is in marketing and advertising materials. Your mailers, billboards, and display ads all have an opportunity to bring in new clients—and enticing them with the allure of a massive payout is often the best way to do it.
- One-on-one conversations. Of course, once you bring on a new client, most of your conversations will occur in a one-on-one context. Via email, phone calls, and in-person interactions, you’ll be able to set more accurate, personalized expectations for a potential payout.
Your main goals when talking about compensation should be:
- Accurate predictions. Accurate predictions are important. If you tell a client they could get up to $5 million and they only get $15,000, they’re going to feel cheated. This is problematic for several reasons. For starters, the client could have managed their budgets irresponsibly after anticipating a larger payout. They’re certainly going to be distrustful of you in the future, and may question your abilities; this can cost you your reputation, and compromise your ability to get referrals in the future.
- Factors and variables. Obviously, it’s hard to predict compensation without having all the details of a given case, so communicate this. Explain, high-level, which variables will impact the client’s payout. These include things like the severity of the injuries, the egregiousness of the actions that led to them, the person’s lost wages, their pain and suffering, and so on. Understanding these variables provides context.
- Disclaimers and caveats. Especially in your marketing and advertising materials, it’s important to include some disclaimers and caveats. If you’re highlighting a case with a massive payout, explain the factors that led to that massive payout and explain that it’s not a typical result the average client can expect.
- Illustrating complexity. It’s also a good idea to spend time illustrating the complexity of personal injury law. Make it clear to your client, especially when you start having in-person conversations, that cases can go in a number of different directions, and they aren’t typically predictable.
- At the same time, assuming you’re able to maintain your adherence to all the above priorities, you’ll also be motivated to attract new personal injury clients to your practice. If you tell clients they shouldn’t expect any payout and that they probably won’t get the compensation they want, you’re never going to get new clients. It’s important to strike a balance.
Key Strategies for Success
If you want to be successful when talking to clients about potential compensation, these are some of your most important strategies for success:
- Be careful with your wording. Legal advertising is highly regulated in the United States to prevent the possibility of false advertising or exploitation, so you’ll need to be careful with your wording anyway. However, in the subject of personal injury compensation, it’s even more important to carefully choose your words. Setting an expectation with “in the best-case scenario, you could get up to…” instead of “you can anticipate…” makes a big impact.
- Avoid specifics in person. You can list specific numbers on your site to illustrate the potential payouts for different types of personal injury cases, but when the conversation moves to in-person, you’ll need to be more cautious. Due to anchoring, the first number you throw out can have a massive impact on expectations for the case moving forward—so delay that number until you have a great understanding of the case.
- Proactively identify misinterpretations. Pay attention to your client when talking to them. Do they look confused? Proactively identify points of confusion or misunderstanding, and try to clear them up.
As you gain more experience as a personal injury attorney, you’ll gain more perspective, and you’ll be better capable of striking the balance between enticement and realism. You’ll also get a natural feel for the common misconceptions and understandings of the lay person, and you’ll be able to communicate with them more effectively as a result.