As of 2019, there were over 1.3 million lawyers practicing in the United States. Rest assured they all want new clients just as badly as your firm. Consequently, modern law firms need to think long and hard about not only the marketing methods they will use to attract clients, but to the ongoing services and collateral they will provide to clients once they’ve retained the group.
One of the most useful retention tools law firms can use with new clients is the new client “Welcome Kit.” Ideally, the kit will not only introduce your clients to the firm, but will also provide critical information about billing, key contacts, and client expectations. In this article, we look at the 10 things every law firm should include in its new client Welcome Kit.
#1: Administrative materials
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct (along with most state ethics rules) require that a lawyer communicate to the client (“preferably in writing”) information about fees and expenses. In most instances, of course, these items are outlined in an Engagement Letter and/or Retainer Agreement. Even if the client receives a copy of this document at the time it is signed, it is still a good idea to include an additional copy in the client’s Welcome Kit. If the firm does this as a matter of course, clients will be hard-pressed to later argue that they have been billed for unanticipated charges.
#2: A synopsis of the client’s matter
Ethics rules also dictate that a lawyer communicates with the client “concerning the representation.” One great way to initiate thorough communication in this regard is for the firm to provide the client with a synopsis of the client’s matter within the Welcome Kit. By transmitting the firm’s understanding of the engagement in writing at this early stage, potential miscommunications about the scope or expectations of the representation can be cleared up at the outset.
#3: Key contact information
One of the top five things that will destroy the attorney-client relationship is the lawyer’s failure to communicate effectively with the client. One way to avoid this dilemma is to include a “key contact” list within the client’s Welcome Kit. This document should not only set forth contact information for every professional working on that client’s matter, but it should also set expectations about when communications from the lawyer will occur. For example, if your policy is to return phone calls within 24 hours, say so. If, on the other hand, you have junior attorneys or paralegals return phone calls, then by all means set that expectation. Don’t forget to also include other key contact information for the firm, including the Accounts Receivable department, your administrative assistant’s number, and an after-hours number in case of emergency.
#4: A summary of the process
Regardless of the type of matter for which the firm has been engaged, the client should be informed early on about what the process will look like. If the client is embroiled in a lawsuit, for example, it may be the first time they have participated in this process. While litigation may be old-hat to your team, it can be a frightening experience for the client. A summary of the various stages of the case can go a long way toward easing client anxiety.
#5: Team member bios
Congratulations! A client has chosen to engage your firm. Now you need to tell them something about the people they will be working with. Understandably, clients like to know who they’ll be paying to protect them. This includes things like education, credentials, and significant prior representations. If you need help crafting a current biography, take a look at one of the many available online resources for guidance.
#6: A list of client expectations
For a lawyer to adequately represent a client, a significant amount of client participation will be required. Whether the lawyer was hired to facilitate a commercial real estate deal or litigate a business dispute, regular client input is absolutely necessary. Remember, however, that your clients don’t do this every day and they may be expecting you to just handle everything. Your welcome kit should explicitly lay out the cooperation needed from the client in order for the representation to be successful.
#7: Billing information
Approximately zero percent of legal clients enjoy paying their bills. If you communicate honestly and effectively from the start of the representation, however, you may find that your firm has fewer collections problems. Accordingly, your Welcome Kit should include detailed information about when invoices are due, how they should be paid, and what steps the client can take if a charge is disputed.
#8: Client tips for working with lawyers
Many lawyers, by their very nature, are friendly and approachable people. As a consequence, clients may start to feel like the lawyer is their buddy. While a good attorney-client relationship is certainly preferable, it can be an expensive proposition for the client if they think they can just call their lawyer when they feel like shooting the breeze. A good way to manage expectations in this regard is to provide the client with a list of guidelines for how to most effectively (and efficiently) work with their attorneys.
#9: Branded items
We’ve all worked with companies that take swag a little too far (I’m talking to you, Pest Control company that left 10 toys at my house). We’re certainly not suggesting you do that. Nonetheless, a couple of classy branded items can help your client remember you during critical moments — like when they need to engage a lawyer for an additional matter.
#10: A hand-written thank you note
With all the high-tech communication that happens these days, the power of the hand-written note is often overlooked. Yet, if you want to set your firm apart from the throngs of other attorneys out there, take a moment to include a hand-written thank you note in your Welcome Kit. It will not only humanize you to your clients, but it shows them that you truly appreciate their business.
What other items does your firm include in its new client Welcome Kit? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section, below.