Nothing Fishy About Making A Good Impression

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Let's talk about Red Lobster. Yes, that Red Lobster.

What does Red Lobster have to do with the practice of law? Quite simply, they are both businesses.

According to an Associated Press article, Red Lobster is striving to improve its image. It wants to be seen as a higher-end eating establishment in order to attract customers and stem its losses.

To that end, it is, among other things, changing its food's presentation. Instead of serving meals on rectangular plates with the food compartmentalized in different sections, it will arrange the fish on a round plate, piled on top of the rice to mimic the presentation at better restaurants.

By trying to draw in new clientele without investing a lot of money, Red Lobster is implementing a business-savvy change. Granted, there will be some added expense: It will have to spend some money on differently shaped plates, and there undoubtedly will be some training involved with the switch. But the food products will remain the same.

In other words, what is changing — hopefully — is the customer's impression.

Lawyers, too, can change impressions with minimal cost. Think about the atmosphere of your office and everything in it, and what those things say to your clients and potential clients. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does your office furniture look like? Fancy furniture can be expensive, but you don't have to spend a bundle to get upscale-looking furniture. There are numerous online and in-store buying options for which you won't have to mortgage your home.

  • What kind of music is playing in the background, either in the office or on the phone for clients on hold? Choose something classic and classy. Rock and rap may not give off a moneyed impression. Blaring "Money (That's What I Want)" is sure to turn off more elegant clients.

  • How are you and your office staff dressed? Is everyone dressed for success? Suits, ties and dress shoes all day, every day, give the impression that you are successful and draw wealthier clients. Dress-down Fridays are a no-no.

  • Are you paying attention to small housecleaning details in the office? Are scuff marks regularly cleaned off the walls? Is dust removed from the corners that clients can see as they sit in your (hopefully upscale-looking) waiting room chairs? Nothing says "struggling" like an unkempt office.

  • What kind of items adorn the top of your desk? If you have a free beer mug from that music festival you attended and it's full of free pens advertising businesses around town, you need to make a trip to an office supply store.

  • What kind of magazines are in your waiting area, and how old are they? Your teenage daughter's Seventeen magazine won't do. A small investment here will be worthwhile. For $19.99 (maybe less if you can find a discount), you can get 20 issues of Fortune.

  • Does your office bathroom say opulent or impoverished? Have you bothered to stock it with good toilet paper, or are you saving money by buying the kind with virtually see-through sheets? Don't forget this part of your office. Many of your clients will need to use it, and a well-maintained, classy-looking affair can speak volumes.

In the restaurant business, impressions can make as much of a difference as product. The business of law is not such a different kettle of fish.

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