Whether it’s medical records ordering, financial services, graphic design, or something else entirely, law firms often need to enlist outside help to keep the office running smoothly. Or at least, that’s what happens when the vendor is reliable. When they’re not, it can feel more like you’re being run into the ground.
But lawyers don’t have time for someone to land them in a pickle. So how do you ensure a vendor will do a reasonable job and deliver their services on time?
Reach out to your network
The experiences other law firms have with a vendor can give you some valuable information—and help prevent painful and frustrating experiences. So if the opportunity comes up, consider asking other lawyers you know who they use as a vendor.
But if that doesn’t pan out—it can be harder to ask casual but practical questions in a work-from-home environment—look to your larger network instead. One great option is to post on a forum because you’ll have the opportunity to hear back from multiple other lawyers.
Note that this is where association memberships can have a high value if they provide access to a network of your peers.
Actively seek referrals
If you’re coming up empty on your search for input from other lawyers, ask the vendors you’re considering working with for referrals. Even if the referrals aren’t for other lawyers, they could be from other professional offices that have similar concerns as law firms.
For instance, financial institutions and medical offices also need to protect sensitive client (or patient) information. Likewise, trust is an integral part of their relationships with their clients and patients, so they can’t afford to have a vendor drop the ball on them in a way that makes them look unprofessional.
Know what you need and ask questions
Before entering into a conversation with a potential vendor, know what you need. You don’t want to contract with a company that either doesn’t do precisely what you need or doesn’t do it in the way that you need it done. Also, remember that law firms are distinct from many other businesses in their need to protect client information.
Additionally, if you know exactly what needs to be done, you will be better able to ask specific questions that can help you determine if a vendor is a right fit for you and your office.
Consider more than the product
When you’re looking for a vendor to contract with, what you need likely isn’t just about the actual service or product—it also includes the entire relationship with the vendor. That’s part of why you want to make a savvy choice, right?
Take a moment to consider the whole picture. What kind of customer service do they offer? If you call with a question or problem, will you be able to talk to someone who knows how to fix it? Or, if something goes wrong, how will the company make it right? (This can be where referrals or references from other lawyers are beneficial.)
Likewise, you may want to get quotes from a few different vendors so that you can see how they compare in pricing. Only decide once you have a sense of the complete package.
Research pays dividends
Taking the time to learn about a vendor before you sign a contract with them can be well worth it. No one wants to be stuck with a mess at the last minute, especially not someone who also has a law office to run.
So do your homework and reach out to your network, ask for referrals, ask specific questions, and consider the full package on offer—not just the product or service.
And if you do end up with a vendor you like, then maybe you’ll have the opportunity to refer them to another lawyer in the future, as both a soft networking move and a way to continue building a positive relationship with the vendor.
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