It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when you’re practicing law. First, you have to be technically and intellectually proficient in the practice area your firm focuses on. Then, you have to be diligent with the procedural rules. Then, of course, you must learn, understand, and respect the hierarchy of employees within the firm. With all of those important aspects of your career to focus on, it’s easy to forget the most important focus of your firm—your clients.
Here are some questions about client management that every firm should ask itself when analyzing just how appealing you are to your customers.
Are you communicating well with your clients?
Poor communication is one of the top complaints clients have about their lawyers. Whether those complaints are rooted in a failure to sufficiently explain legal issues, difficulty reaching members of the legal team, or inadequate notice of case events, poor communication can destroy the lawyer-client relationship. More importantly, however, poor communication can lead to ethical complaints against your firm.
It is therefore critical that your firm train lawyers and non-lawyers alike on client relationships — starting with the issue of client communication. For example, does your firm have a protocol for returning client phone calls? What technologies do you use to reach clients? Are staff members proficient in communicating legal issues to clients in a way that clients can understand them? Are employees reviewed on their client communication skills? Asking these critical questions can go a long way toward making sure your clients never feel like they’ve been left in the dark.
Are your billing practices sufficient?
Legal services can be costly on the client side. Clients want to feel like they are getting both quality legal advice as well as customer service for the dollars they spend, whether they are spending a few hundred dollars or hundreds of thousands.
One of the best practices your firm can employ to improve client relations is to improve your billing practices. Make sure your bills are not only understandable but also give your clients enough detail so they can be certain their money isn’t being wasted.
Clients will generally let you know if they are unhappy with their bills. Does your firm track these complaints? Do you compare them year after year? Do you use them to implement improved billing practices? If not, you’re missing out on a simple and efficient way to make your clients happy.
Are you consistently asking about client satisfaction?
If your firm is truly committed to becoming client-focused, you need to actively gauge client satisfaction. One of the best ways you can do that is through client surveys. Your questions should surround asking your clients whether or not they’ve had a good experience with your firm.
Of course, asking the right questions is only part of the exercise. You then need to listen to your clients in a real and meaningful way. This may mean that you appoint a staff member to compile and summarize the results of the survey. Once that is completed, firm leadership needs to meet to discuss necessary changes. Research ways to implement new protocols that will help your firm improve based on your results. Then, once you’ve analyzed your results on client satisfaction, create a plan that keeps your staff consistently informed about client’s opinions on their experience with your firm to help ensure that every client’s experience is a positive one. This also creates the opportunity for you to take corrective action on potential issues before they begin to snowball.
Are you studying competitors known for great customer service?
Studying your competitors who are known for customer satisfaction may be what sets your firm apart. Assign one of your employees the task of studying companies with happy customers and the reasons for customer satisfaction. Then, take the initiative to assign a committee to determine how your firm could apply those principles to your practice.
These days, legal clients have a lot of options when it comes to choosing legal services. Not only are you competing with over 400,000 law firms in the U.S. alone, but there are also a plethora of online legal services vying for your clients’ dollars. Thus, your firm should use all available tools and resources to ensure that you are aware of best practices for working with clients in your area(s) of practice.
Your strategic approach to client relations may just be the thing that grows your business the most in 2021.