When lawyers think about a client’s experience with their firm, they often think about direct interactions with clients. But the truth is that these interactions more accurately reflect the lawyer’s experience than their clients’.
Many components make up the client’s experience—from the first forms they fill out to how long it takes for someone to respond to their phone call to how they pay their bills. At the end of the day, all of these factors will influence how they feel about your firm.
Understand the client experience
To understand the client experience, your firm needs to map it out, from the first interaction to the last. In this case, “interaction” refers to every time a client comes into contact with something to do with your firm.
For instance, what is your client’s experience of signing the retainer or engagement agreement? Are payment schedules and the dispute resolution process clearly explained? Do they have to come into the office to complete intake forms, or can they fill them out at their convenience online?
Only once you have a solid understanding of the client experience can you make adjustments.
Once you’ve mapped out the client experience your firm provides, it’s time to make improvements. Identifying pain points and brainstorming solutions will look different for small law firms and solos versus medium-sized firms and large ones.
But however you proceed, be sure that everyone on your team—including the front office staff—knows that you’re looking for suggestions. After all, it’s often the case that the people with the best insights for improvements are the ones doing that task every day.
Implement changes and monitor for quality
Implementing changes will be a process of constant refinement. Your whole team will need to follow through with changes and monitor how the new approach goes.
Fine-tuning how you do things can be challenging for a team, and success depends on openness, accountability, and sharing.
Opportunities for improvement
If your team is unsure of where to start, there are a few common areas that law firms can improve on which make a big difference for clients.
Move intake forms online
Your clients know they can fill out intake forms online because other professionals, from real estate agents to therapists, offer it as an option. Which means they’ll expect the same convenience from your firm.
Online intake forms can make life a little easier for your staff—and they save a client the frustration of having to write their same identifying information on five different forms.
Swiftly answer client communications
If phones are ringing without enough staff to answer them, consider hiring a legal-specific virtual assistant to bring things under control. And if your team is working remotely, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can help smooth the gap with internet voice communications.
If you had any clients before 2020 who didn’t expect video conferencing as an option, they certainly expect it now. Not only will this give them—and you—the flexibility to meet from anywhere, but it will also open up more possible meeting times in both of your schedules.
Use client portals
Client portals let you share documents electronically—and securely. They also help you keep your finger on the pulse of all the documents your client has been given or signed, and if you want to use the portal to message clients securely, you can do that too.
Set up online invoices and payment options
Your clients will expect to be able to view their bills and pay them online—just as they do for almost every other service they use. It’s faster and more convenient.
Online payments can be more manageable for your firm, too, because they take fewer steps on your end and often mean the bills get paid faster than they would otherwise. Just don’t forget to vet your credit card merchant so that your firm doesn’t end up with an accidental ethics violation.
A positive experience yields satisfied clients—and more referrals
Making adjustments in the experience your firm offers is a process of self-reflection, group suggestions, implementing changes, and then monitoring for the efficacy of the results. It’s not always easy, but if you’ve put in the effort of converting a lead into a client, it’s worth making sure they have a good experience.
A more streamlined and positive client experience will yield more satisfied clients—who can become return clients and lead to referrals.