Teaming with Attorneys: 7 Tips to Collaborating with Legal Advisors
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has changed how advisors look at estate planning. Typically, the focus landed on estate tax planning. But with increased exemptions, planning is shifting to strategic income tax planning, succession planning and the timing of planned gifts. It is a great time to collaborate with estate planning attorneys. Think about how you can bring innovation, inspiration and creativity to a strategic relationship with an attorney.
1) Find out what you don't know.
Every client has a team of advisors. Do you know who they are? Make sure to ask who are the client’s other advisors when you have your factfinding session. Sprinkle your “fact-based questions” with questions that get at issues, conflicts and feelings. What about charitable organizations, how does the client support them? Why did he or she choose that one? The more you understand your client, the stronger the relationship will be.
2) Build on what you know.
If your client has an attorney, find out more. Start with the attorney’s website or LinkedIn. Then contact the attorney to introduce yourself. Make it clear that the call or meeting is not to discuss the client. Rather, you want to know more about his or her practice and how you might help or collaborate.
3) Understand the attorney's ideal client.
Ask the attorney to describe his ideal client. All estate planning attorneys can handle traditional Wills and Trusts. What is the attorney’s specialty or sub-specialty? What makes for an outstanding client?
4) Share ideas that get the attorney's attention.
Bring or share an intriguing idea. It may be something that he is curious about. Or, it may be an overlooked client base right in his/her own backyard (working family farms, winery, clients with mineral leases, tech industry executives).
5) Say what you do. Do what you say.
Follow up your meeting with a summary email or quick note. Include any follow-up information that you discussed or might be of interest to the attorney. Building a relationship with an attorney starts with reliability and trust.
6) Offer clear, concise communication.
Be mindful of the attorney’s time whether in a meeting, phone or written communication. Get to the point quickly. Use analogies that translate into his/her point of reference. Listen intently.
7) Don't assume. Get permission.
Do not assume a client has given his/her consent to discuss “particulars “with the attorney. Just because the attorney was present at a meeting does not imply consent. Contact your client and obtain written “full circle” consent, allowing you and the attorney to be able to speak freely and collaborate together on planning for the client.
Strong, strategic relationships with attorneys can enhance your practice and theirs. But it starts with a relationship built on trust and reliability.
Charlsey Baumeier is First Financial Resources (FFR), National Business Development Officer. With over 20 years of estate planning experience in large law firms, Charlsey has worked with high-net worth individuals, business owners, and corporate executives. In her role with FFR, Charlsey helps “pair” an FFR advisor and his/her client with an attorney whose expertise fits the needs of a client. You can reach Charlsey at: CBaumeier@ffrllc.com.