In law school you spend countless hours studying case law and legal theory, but very little (if any) time learning the ins and outs of running a successful law firm. While the counsel you provide is vital to building your law business, your client relations are essential to your continued success.
In fact, current consumer trends prove that client relations are essential in all industries, and law is no exception. Todd Flubacher, partner at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP in Wilmington, DE, states it best: “When we represent a client, we often literally act on their behalf and stand in their place. If clients do not feel any sense of personal connection to you as their lawyer, it is far more likely that they will call someone else who they personally like better, or with whom they have a relationship.” So, how do you improve client relations at your law firm? Here are a few simple tips to get you started…
#1: CHOOSE YOUR CLIENTS WISELY
Whether your law firm is just starting out or experiencing a slow season, it can be tempting to take any case or client that comes your way. However, ignoring the ‘red flags’ of a difficult client can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Taking on high-maintenance clients takes time and resources away from your ‘A’ clients, and makes it difficult to provide the attentive representation they deserve. Heed the signs and know when to say no.
#2: ESTABLISH A SOLID INTAKE PROCESS
Has the client already worked with another attorney? Does their legal matter fit in with your law firm's area of expertise? Asking the right questions upfront is an important part of qualifying your clients and setting reasonable expectations. Plus, it can save you from issues down the road. Work with your receptionist to develop a thorough intake process that eliminates some of the gray areas, and never over-promise on things you are unable to deliver.
#3: MAKE COMMUNICATION A PRIORITY
Client communications is one of the most frequent causes of bar grievances. In recent findings by the BTI Consulting Group, 87 percent of clients would replace a current law office if given good reason; and most cited poor communication as a key determinant. When you become adept at communicating with your clients, you are better able to manage their needs and ensure their satisfaction. Set expectations by asking the client how they prefer to be contacted and how often. Be sure to verbally discuss all major details of your attorney agreement, and utilize your website, social media, and Messages On Hold to communicate important practice info and processes.
#4: STAGE YOUR OFFICE FOR SUCCESS
Working with an attorney can be intimidating. Make sure your office environment sets your clients at ease by creating a welcoming environment. From a comfortable reception area stocked with beverages and light snacks to a friendly receptionist who greets clients when they come in the door. These little efforts can go a long way in improving the client experience.
#5: PUT YOUR TECHNOLOGY TO WORK FOR YOU
An educated client is your best client. They understand how the process works, they know what to expect, and they don’t inundate you with questions. Your technology provides an excellent platform for client education. So, be sure to maximize its potential. From web chat and client portals to video conferencing and custom on-hold messages that promote your service & expertise, if you leverage your technology correctly, it can do much of the client education for you.
Creating a positive client experience requires time and effort, but if you make it a priority, your law firm will reap the rewards.