Questions to ask your firm about the past year

Law firm customer reviews and questions raised
With 2019 drawing to a close, now is a good time to look back and analyze what you’ve done. Here are the top 5 questions you should ask.

It’s hard to believe that 2019 is drawing to a close. Nonetheless, the end of the year is always a good time to look back and analyze what you’ve done.

There are certain obvious questions that are surely already being asked at your firm — and it is important to look at things like revenue generation, effectiveness of marketing efforts, and growth rates. Those are valuable analyses and should be taken seriously.

But what about the people perspective? How did your firm do in relation to the people it interacts with day in and day out?

#1: Are our clients happy?

We’ve written before about the typical complaints clients have about law firms.  Hopefully your firm has taken them to heart and has remedied those common problems. The end of the year is a good time to talk to your clients about how happy they are (or aren’t) with your services. And while it’s always helpful to have one-on-one discussions with clients on this topic, perhaps your firm should also consider putting together a brief customer satisfaction survey that will provide a consistent overview of client perceptions.

Be sure to appoint one or more people to gather, analyze, and present the data to firm employees. If improvement is needed, an initiative focused on client satisfaction is the perfect place to implement those changes.

#2: How’d we do with hiring and retention?

Every law firm has its own hiring standards. Some are concerned solely with Ivy League credentials. Others place an emphasis on experience over education. Still others adhere to strict internal guidelines concerning the percentage of women, minority, and LGBTQ employees the firm will aim to retain. And while most firms undertake a numerical analysis of hirings and firings each year, many will leave out other critical considerations.

For example, if attorneys and other staff members left the firm, why did they leave? Were exit interviews conducted? If so, what does the collective exit data from the past year tell you? It’s one thing to aim for having a certain mix of people in your firm, but if you don’t understand why those people are leaving in droves, you may find yourself having a hard time hiring next year.

#3: How were our reviews?

The internet has changed the game with respect to customer reviews. These days, with just a few clicks of the mouse, any individual can publish a review of your law firm — whether they’ve interacted with the firm or not.

And, perhaps frighteningly, the California Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that online review sites like Yelp cannot be forced to take down negative reviews—even if those reviews are false. Given this state of affairs, you better keep an eye on what has been said about your firm online in the past year. If negative reviews abound, you might want to consider a public relations campaign to fix your image.

#4: What was the stress level in the office?

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of Americans feel stressed at work. Given that law firms are notoriously stressful, it’s probably a good idea for your firm to have a thorough understanding of the problem. One way to gauge the problem is to issue a Workplace Stress Survey. Then, once you have the data in hand, the firm can make a plan for combating employee stress in the coming year.

#5: Did all staff feel respected?

Some attorneys may not like to read this, but a law firm is only as good as its non-attorney staff. That’s because they’re the ones who keep the attorneys in line. They track deadlines, check citations, proofread briefs, and often know more about the applicable rules in any given case than the attorneys themselves.

Superb support and administrative professionals are worth their weight in gold. And, if your firm is not respecting them, you may lose them. The end of the year is a great time to hold a staff appreciation party or to dole out meaningful gifts that recognize their contribution to the firm. It’s easy to forget to say “thank you” day in and day out but implementing these simple measures can make up for a lot.

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What else does your firm track at the end of the year? Are there other questions you are focusing on in these final months? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.

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