Improving a law firm’s customer service and reputation is a critical component to the success of every law office. Having a great customer service and reputation will not only inspire loyalty and devotion in your clients, but it will directly impact your bottom-line.
Although many lawyers understand the importance of managing their relationships and image, they can be so busy spending time on their practice that focusing on customer service and reputation management is put on the back-burner.
We have decided to solve this issue by showing you the rules of building lasting relationships. You will be surprised as to how simple, yet effective, these rules really are when executed.
JurisCase has put together this comprehensive guide, the “Golden Standard”, on how to improve a law firm’s customer service and reputation, in order to help attorneys excel in their practice and crush the competition.
The Golden Standard of a law firm’s customer service and reputation management is based on four main pillars: communication, subtle presentation, organization/administration, and networking.
We have also included a fifth pillar for the general Do’s and Don’ts you should pay attention to; but let’s beginning with the first pillar – Communication.
Managing Law Firm’s Customer Service and Reputation starts with COMMUNICATION
SCHEDULE ROUTINE CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS
Your clients need to feel that they are on your mind day in and day out. When it comes to law firm’s customer service and reputation, it all depends on how well you’re perceived by your clients.
It’s important to always be in contact with your clients, because it not only gives them the peace of mind that you’re on top of things, but you’ll always be present to maintain a good relationship with your clients.
It doesn’t take much time or effort to check up on your clients. Your schedule could be as simple as once a week for active clients and once every two months for inactive clients.
Personal Touch = GREAT Law Firm Customer Service
Thoughtful is always appreciated.
Your clients would much rather work with you if they feel like they personally know you. Your relationship with your clients will drastically improve if you frequently show small personal gestures.
For example, you can send handwritten notes to your clients who have just won a case with your help. Believe me, this gesture will go a long way. Or perhaps, if you client is old and not very tech-savvy, they might appreciate a phone call from you, instead of receiving an email.
ROUTINELY GET FEEDBACK FROM CLIENTS
Always monitor and gauge your performance.
There is a reason why successful companies frequently ask their customers/clients for feedback. The reason is simple, but potent.
Asking clients for feedback demonstrates how much you care about maintaining your law firm’s customer service and reputation, which gives them the assurance that you will do your best to take care of their needs, because your firm’s image depends on their satisfaction.
Also, let’s not forget that the feedback that you get from your clients can help you improve and fix mistakes that you might be making.
RETURN PHONE CALLS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Be sure to return all calls yourself or have your staff return them for you, preferably within an hour.
When people are in need of an attorney, assuming they don’t already have one, they usually call local law offices by going down an online directory. In most cases, the first available law office usually wins the client’s business.
If you are unavailable, just make it a priority to call back as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the chances of losing a potential client.
TRY TO ALWAYS BE AVAILABLE IN PERSON OR BY PHONE
Simply put, you will lose your clients if you are never there for them.
Great law firm customer service and reputation results in your clients feeling that they can trust and rely on you. By being available to your clients, you are proving to them that you value their business and that you are always available if they need you.
Every client wants to be able to rely on their attorney. Once you prove your reliability to them, you will have their loyalty, because they simply won’t look for other attorneys and risk losing the availability.
WHEN DISAGREEING, DISAGREE THE RIGHT WAY
Disagreeing the wrong way will damage your law firm’s customer service and reputation.
Disagreeing with your clients might seem like a difficult thing to do, but there’s a way to do it that won’t earn yourself or your firm the reputation of being rude to clients.
Most lawyers fear disagreeing with clients because they might end up insulting their clients.
Well, like any other delicate moment in life, you must do it with care; otherwise, what you fear will turn into reality.
Here’s how you should disagree with clients:
- Be kind and gentle
- Back your point with information to show your client that your point (or opinion) is based on valid reasoning.
- Remind them that you are only looking out for their best interest, and that it is your responsibility, as their legal advisor, to disagree with them if it’s for their benefit.
You should not be afraid of disagreeing with your clients because, more often than not, it shows your clients that you care enough about them that you’re willing to challenge them for their own good, rather than just be agreeable.
KNOW HOW TO ASK FOR REFERRALS
Ask everybody that you know, from friends and family to clients and staff members, for referrals. People naturally enjoy being helpful. By accepting help from others, you are indirectly making them feel valuable.
Law firms can improve their relationships with their clients by asking them for referrals. To further elaborate what I mentioned above, accepting help is a sign of trust.
When you ask your clients for referrals, you are indirectly implying that they trust your service so much that they would refer others to you. Subconsciously, they will be more inclined to trust you if they recommend you to others.
EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE FOR REFERRALS
Always send thank-you cards or gift baskets to those who refer you a client.
Showing gratitude is another way you can let someone that you value them. A thank-you letter is a very thoughtful way to express your gratitude, because it shows that you went out of your way to say “thank you” when you could have simply said it over the phone.
I know some attorneys who even send small gift baskets to those refer clients. This is a very small price to pay to let someone know that their effort is appreciated, and it just might motivate them to refer your other clients. People tend to be inspired to repeat the things they are praised for.
It’s these small gestures that play the biggest role in managing your law firm’s customer service and reputation.
SHOW YOUR CLIENTS YOU APPRECIATE THEM
Holiday cards are terrific for expressing client appreciation.
Law firms with great client relations focus primarily on how they make their clients feel. Sending holiday cards is just another way of making your clients feel appreciated. By sending your clients holiday cards, whether it’s for Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s Eve, you are showing that they are on your mind at all times, even during holidays.
Even the simplest holiday card can go a long way in establishing a loyal clientele. Great client relationships are heavily influenced by your clients feeling that they are valued.
SHOW CLIENTS HOW LEGAL EXPENSES ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE
Every November, the IRS gives you a chance to show your clients that you care about them.
Legal expenses can be deducted when doing your taxes. Although some may not know this, the vast majority of your clients will definitely deduct their legal expenses from their income every tax season.
Whether they know this or not, every one of your clients will appreciate you sending them a breakdown of what they’ve paid you within the tax year and how they can deduct these expenses. This is another way to show your clients that you are reliable and on top of things.
REACH OUT TO CLIENTS WITH INACTIVE CASES
Anytime a case has been inactive for a certain period of time (usually 3 months), we highly advise that you send them a letter of inactivity.
Sending a letter of inactivity is a reason for you to connect with your dormant clients. Many times, your clients could be so busy that they prolong their cases.
It’s your duty, as their legal advisor, to help them take action in a timely manner. Letters of inactivity can easily revive old cases, thus directly contributing to your bottom-line.
USE THE POWER OF PRAISE TO MOTIVATE
Praising others perhaps one of the best ways to express your gratitude.
Most people thrive on praise. Praise makes them feel important and valued. Anytime you praise someone for the good things they’ve done, you are boosting their self-esteem. The secret ingredient of charmers is their ability to make others around them feel good about themselves. Boosting other people’s self-esteem through praise is a sure-fire way of starting a great relationship with them. Praising your clients will inspire loyalty and devotion in them.
Using Subtlety to Boost Your Law Firm’s Customer Service and Reputation
DRESS TO IMPRESS… (it goes a long way)
People expect attorneys to be well-dressed professionals. Don’t drop the ball.
Most attorneys understand what professional business attire is. Just in case you don’t, watch an episode of the television series “Suits”.
Clients expect their attorneys to be well-dressed and well put together. Most law firms don’t need to pay too much attention to this, because they are already well-dressed, well-groomed, and well put together.
This piece of advice is for those who go to work with wrinkly shirts and stained paints. I’ve seen it firsthand, and believe me, I was very disappointed. How can I trust the customer service or reputation of that law firm if the people who work there don’t even care enough to iron or wash their clothes?
BUSINESS CARDS ARE A MUST FOR EVERY ATTORNEY
Always carry high-quality, professional business cards.
Regardless of what some may think about business cards, they exist because there is a real purpose for them. Some may think that business cards are a waste of money because the receiver usually throws it away, while others think that it is a very outdated way of exchanging contact information.
Despite what people might think, just be safe and have high-quality business cards with you at all times. Something about handing a high-quality business card just makes a good impression about you.
BETTER HOSPITALITY FOR A BETTER LAW FIRM CUSTOMER SERVICE AND REPUTATION
Always offer visitors and clients refreshments, coffee, or tea while they wait in the reception area.
Good hospitality for every visitor will not only improve your reputation with those you come in contact with, but you will ensure that you and your staff will always be welcoming toward potential clients.
Kind treatment of people doesn’t take much effort, yet this small gesture can show clients that you value them and it can potentially earn you a client’s loyalty. When you value your clients, you’re building the foundation of a strong attorney/client relationship.
READING MATERIAL ON YOUR PRACTICE AREAS
Make sure your lobby/reception area contains reading material relevant to the kind of practice you want people to think you have.
Having great customer service and an impeccable reputation has a lot to do with your credibility in your field. By having relevant reading material, such as magazines, booklets and etcetera, you are portraying yourself as an expert who stays up-to-date with current industry news.
For example, if you practice real estate law, make sure you have real estate magazines or books in your reception area. If your office handles different practice areas, this is a great opportunity for you to display your staff’s expertise to your visitors.
MANAGE EXPECTATIONS OR KEEP YOUR PROMISES
Your word should be your bond.
Nobody likes a person who doesn’t deliver on their promises. Don’t be that attorney who breaks promises as fast as making them.
If you want to improve your law firm’s customer service and reputation, keep your promises and follow through with them.
For example, if you tell your client that you will meet their deadline, you should make sure that you overdeliver. If the deadline is Friday, deliver on Thursday.
Organization & Administration
KEEPING TRACK OF CORRESPONDENCE
Always keep track of mails and emails, and send your clients copies of all “correspondence in” and “correspondence out.”
This simply shows that you and your staff keep track of everything that occurs in the office and with your clients. It gives the client the peace of mind that nothing will go unnoticed, and that their needs will be met.
EVERYTHING SHOULD BE TRANSPARENT AND IN WRITING
Make sure that agreements with your clients are in writing, with full transparency about fees and conditions.
You don’t ever want to put yourself or your clients in the situations of confusion. Not only does that make you look unprofessional, but you’ll begin to lose trust with your clients. People trust professionals who stand by their word and make sure their clients understand every detail of the agreement.
When you do put together a written agreement or disclosure, make sure you go through the agreement together with your client. By doing so, your clients will know that you’re a person they can trust. Even if your fees are higher than other law firms, your clients will still stay loyal to you. Trust is one of the biggest factors in establishing great law firm customer service and reputation.
KEEP YOUR CLIENTS NOTIFIED ABOUT BILLING
Unclear fees and are another way of destroying your reputation with your clients.
Make sure that your clients know exactly what they are being billed for. Clients, especially new ones, are very skeptical of their retainers being taken advantage of. The best advice that we can give you is to make sure that you tell your clients exactly when and how you will send invoices prior to accepting any money from them.
A law firm’s reputation can go down the drain as soon as word gets around that their clients are being overbilled.
Needless to say – but I’m going to say it anyway – make sure that you keep your promise and send them invoices regularly.
We recommend that you send your clients invoices no later than every two weeks. Ideally, you should be sending them invoices every week, because consistency demonstrates your reliability.
MANAGE YOUR DOCUMENTS TO BETTER MANAGE YOUR LAW FIRM’S CUSTOMER SERVICE AND REPUTATION
Without proper document management tools, law firms would be flooded with paperwork.
Use a practice management software to keep track of all your documents. Legal tech has significantly improved how law firms can manage their documents.
Law firms have the option of choosing all sorts of tools to help them better manage their documents, from simple document scanner apps (like Genius Scan) to advanced practice management software.
If you don’t currently use a practice management software, chances are that you have stacks of paper all over your office. Here’s a list of practice management software.
Networking & Maintaining Your Image Around Others
KNOW HOW TO NETWORK AT SOCIAL EVENTS
Networking events, even social events, often consist of many potential clients.
Many attorneys confuse networking with sales, and it is the very reason why they avoid networking in the first place. Amateur networkers will go to events and try to convert every person they meet to a client. It just doesn’t work that way. The purpose of networking is to allow you to make friends with people who are either in your field or use the types of services that you offer. Networking is based on the fact that it is human nature to do business with people that you like.
Here’s how it generally goes:
1) You meet someone at an event
2) You find out what the person does for a living. This is where you determine if he/she would ever need your services
3) You find something in common, preferably something unrelated to work, and have an enjoyable conversation
4) Exchange contact information
5) Connect with them on LinkedIn or by email
6) Call them up a week later and set a time to meet up for lunch, or perhaps at the next networking event
7) Ask for a referral. If they need your services, they would tell you. If not, at least you’ve made a friend that will potentially send you referrals.
Networking is all about making friends, which will grow your professional network and your clientele.
You can learn how to properly network at events by reading our article on (insert link)
SHOWCASE LAW FIRM CUSTOMER SERVICE AND REPUTATION BY HAVING A GREAT ONLINE PRESENCE
A law firm’s online presence is the first impression you give your clients.
Put some focus on being visible online.
In today’s world, clients are won and lost because of a firm’s reputation online, or lack thereof. Be the law firm that outcompetes every competitor by becoming a more dominant online presence.
Here are some ideas on gaining more visibility online:
- Get listed on directories (i.e. Google Maps, Yelp, Manta, and specifically lawyer directories)
- Write blogs on your website, and guest blogs on other people’s websites
- Start a podcast or Youtube channel, and cover a topic that attracts the attention of your target audience
- Be active on social media (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, and most importantly, LinkedIn)
- Host fundraisers and get press coverage
HOW TO ANSWER “WHAT KIND OF LAW DO YOU PRACTICE?”
Make sure that you are careful when you answer the question, “What kind of law do you practice?” The wrong answer might limit you.
This is a tricky one because you don’t want to sound as if you’re not sure which practice area you specialize in. Often times, you’ll be asked this question when you are networking, either at a party or a networking event.
Since this question is mostly asked in person, the best advice is to prepare an answer that implies your expertise in other fields, as well as your primary practice area.
Don’t respond with one-word answers, such as “intellectual property law” or “bankruptcy law”. If you work at a law firm, then talk about the wide range of services of the law firm, then follow up by explaining which aspect you personally handle on a day-to-day.
WHEN ACCEPTING HELP FROM A WITNESS
Always send thank-you cards to the witnesses who testify to support your case (Assuming that the local rules allow you).
Again, when someone helps you in any way, make it your personal mission to let them know that their help was appreciated and not taken for granted.
Perhaps, you can write a personal note expressing how big of a help they really are. This sort of action truly inspires devotion and loyalty in those in your network.
GETTING CASH UPFRONT FROM NEW CLIENTS
Always try to get as much cash up front from new clients.
When a client pays cash up front, the client and the attorney both know that the other party is committed to the task. Don’t presume that a person is your client if they haven’t paid you yet. You might end up doing work that you cannot bill to the client.
More importantly, this plays a huge role in creating a relationship dynamic between you and your client that is in your favor. Fundamentally, this is the psychology that expert salespeople use to position themselves in situations where clients are glad to purchase from them, no matter the cost.
When clients pay you a significant amount, your services will be more valued. They will justify their decision of paying you, therefore, making it more difficult for them to devalue your service in their minds.
DON’T ACCEPT EVERY SINGLE CASE, PREVENT HEADACHES
Every now and then, there are those “trouble clients”. You know it when you see it. If you want to avoid trouble, simply avoid those types of clients.
This depends on your standards as a law firm and what type of person you consider to be trouble. In most cases, depending on your standards, you already know the type that causes trouble.
The best advice that we can give you is to avoid these types of people, because it will be very difficult to maintain a good attorney-client relationship, anyway.
If you work with clients who value your work and respect your expertise, very rarely will your relations with your clients be at risk. It just takes that one “trouble client” to not only add more stress to your life, but actually damage your reputation in certain circles.
Great law firm customer service and reputation are critical components to the success of any law office. Having good client relations will not only inspire loyalty and devotion in your clients, but it can directly impact your bottom-line.
Although many attorneys understand the importance of maintaining a great customer service and a great reputation, most law offices are so busy that they quickly forget to spend time on building their reputation and their relationships with clients.
This article gave you a comprehensive guide to improving your law firm’s customer service and reputation management. Subscribe to JurisCase Newsletter to be notified when similar articles are published.