Here’s an under-appreciated truth: the business success of your firm hinges on using skills you didn’t learn in law school. Developing and maintaining positive relationships with clients is critical to the sustainability of law firms.
How to do it? Greet your clients warmly, get to know their hobbies, learn the names of their family members, and they’ll know the client relationship is important to you. While essential, excellent customer service does require a targeted investment in firm resources and energy.
So, what’s in it for you?
Build a competitive edge
Increased automation makes nitty-gritty legal tasks easier to manage, and the market is flush with competent lawyers. As clients shop around for legal counsel, they aren’t just looking for someone who can get the job done. Increasingly, clients want lawyers who are easy to work with and provide a good experience.
Responsiveness, accessibility, and strong communication can set your firm apart and attract more business. Ask yourself, are you available to your clients? Do the phones in your firm get answered? Do you reply to client emails promptly and keep them informed? These are small steps that make a difference in today’s market.
Attract repeat business
Once you’ve landed your clients with your impressive people skills, the key is to hold onto them. Clients that are happy with the work you’ve done are more likely to hire you again, trust you with more complex issues, and be willing to pay more for services.
Repeat clients are also good for your bottom line. It can cost up to five times more to replace a lost client than to generate repeat business from existing ones. For most small to midsize law firms, the bulk of their business comes from repeat clients, so continuing to foster these relationships is key. Keep them around by completing the work in a timely manner and showing them you care about their business.
Gain referrals from loyal clients
If you’ve consistently produced good work for your client and paid close attention to their specific needs, there’s a much better chance they’ll recommend you to their friends and family.
On the flip side, if you neglect their emails, pass them off to an associate without checking back in, or let their calls go unanswered, your clients will air their grievances widely to their network. Not only will you lose their business, but you can also kiss their referrals goodbye.
Client referrals are one of the biggest sources of new business for small to midsize law firms. Instead of dumping money into expensive marketing campaigns, invest in your current clients and reap the benefits.
Develop client trust
Legal work can be a stressful and emotional experience for a client. You may view your work as a logical, analytical interpretation of the law, but building trust is crucial to doing this work well.
Clients want lawyers who understand the ins and outs of their specific business and who can alert them to issues they may have missed. The more return clients you have, the better you’ll understand their industries, allowing you to offer specialized legal counsel. Plus, you’ll spend less time getting to know dozens of different businesses if you can narrow your focus on fewer, repeat clients.
Get paid on time
If your client is convinced that you add value to their business, they will be happier to write the check when your bill arrives in the mail. If there are no surprises and they understand the final charges, that’s even better. Spend less time worrying about following up on late payments by making yourself an indispensable asset to your client.
Making a client-focused plan
Despite the benefits of positive client relationships, few small to midsize firms have specific plans for building these relationships. You don’t always have to wine and dine your clients to make them happy (especially not during a pandemic!). It can be as simple as asking whether your client prefers a phone call or email when you have updates on their case.
When you put work into your client relationships, they’ll stay with you for generations. Don’t wait until you start to lose clients to focus on retention. Show your clients today that they are essential to your firm.