Law firms that have been around for a while and are of a larger size often need not worry where their next clients are coming from. Smaller law firms however, do. But this often wrongly eclipses the need to constantly improve client service for current clients. A law firm of any size that accomplishes its goals has a client-centered attitude. With the client connection at its heart, a law firm will continuously look for ways to improve its communication, quality of service, and value.
Clients are used to good customer service. It is and should be the norm; but great customer service is what an outstanding law firm should provide. After all, the clients make the business. And the best way to provide excellent customer service is through client connections.
Lawyers’ vs. Clients’ Top 10 Competency Rankings
According to a table from American Law Firms in Transition by Randall Kiser, lawyers have a very different idea of what makes them competent as opposed to clients.
Ongoing communication; keeping clients informed/updated, responding promptly, asking questions and seeking information
Honoring client confidentiality
Responsiveness to and anticipation of client needs
Determining risk mitigation strategies
Explaining fee arrangements, providing accurate cost estimates and a clear rationale for any variance
Strategic problem solving and strong case/project management
Managing support staff
Understanding client priorities, expectations, and need for closure
Integrity and trustworthiness
Empathy and compassion
Ability to provide a disinterested assessment of a proposed deal in risk/reward terms
Treating others with courtesy
Ability to prepare a case for trial
There is a clear disparity between the two columns. The top six characteristics on the clients’ side all deal with the consumer relationship or customer service. Most often, clients aren’t concerned with the legal side of things, that’s what the lawyer is expected to deal with. Clients want support during what is often a difficult time, and usually aren’t as interested in legal expertise as that is quite widely available.
So how can a firm supply the demand for client connection?
Client service begins before client intake even starts. The client must recognize that a specific law firm has the answer to their problem and choose them. The client is the driver of their own story, not the lawyer. With the focus shifted onto the client rather than the lawyer, the entire mindset of the law firm can accommodate the future success of and current connection with the client. The client’s journey as a buyer has five stages, of which a law firm must understand better in order to serve them better. The client must feel that they are seen, heard, and will be in good hands.
The client learns more about the law firm, not necessarily with a legal need, perhaps just out of interest. How good is the advertising of the law firm, how comprehensive is the website?
The client has a legal need and deliberates whether the law firm is a good fit for them. Are they able to get all the necessary information about the law firm?
The client chooses the law firm, and the client-attorney relationship commences.
The client engages with the firm.
After the legal matter is resolved, the business relationship is maintained.
Current and potential clients can be interviewed to gather data on their experience with all the above with questions such as:
A law firm should be accessible for everyone. Online presence, client intake conduct, services offered and even the physical office where the law firm is must be for every type of customer. What does this include?
Law firm accessibility standards should come into play when designing a better client experience for all clients.
Attorneys, although understandably busy, must take the time to communicate with their client. The key is not to talk at their client, but have a real conversation where the client constantly feels heard, is updated, and has all the information they need to follow proceedings and never feel lost. The client must be actively listened to and responses should be reflected on, clear, and patient.
There should be clear guidelines for client communication, such as method of communication, times, and dates. The law firm and its attorneys must be prepared in advance, and have scheduled routine communications.
Client communications and legal documents should be readable for clients, most of whom do not understand legal jargon and in many cases are not able to read at a very high level.
Clients must be able to understand what they are reading and when they are communicating with the law firm and their attorney to avoid miscommunication and improve the customer experience.
This can be done with plain language, short sentences and paragraphs, using an active voice, and making the texts easy to skim via white space and headings.
Asking clients for feedback, whether face to face, via a survey, or by social media, is invaluable in building and improving on the client connection.
A great law firm is constantly on the rise, and always strives for better. The law firm must always strive to find out what their clients need and how they can best deliver it.
While law is a difficult practice, being kind, patient and empathetic shouldn’t be. If you want to listen how Case Status customers are emphasizing client connections in their firm, click to watch them shares their experiences.
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