Most small firm owners spend a lot of time worrying about finding their next potential clients and not enough time thinking about how to improve their law firm client service experience for their existing clients. You must be relentless in refining your firm’s client service. A modern, successful, and profitable firm is innovative, efficient, and guided by a client-centered approach. Law firm client service should be an iterative process where you always look for ways to deliver value, communication, and deliverables with the client’s needs in mind.
It isn’t enough to offer the same customer service clients have already experienced. The law firm client service we’re describing goes above the ordinary. Clients expect a new level of service from all businesses—and your firm’s success depends on it. In fact, over 67% of consumers say they’ll pay more for a great experience. Out of all the organizations actively working to improve the experience they give, 84% report an increase in revenue.
When it comes to owning and building a professional services business, your clients matter most. You simply would not be successful without them.
By bringing your focus back to your client and by following client-centered values, systems, and practices, you can acquire more clients and retain the client base you have.
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Understanding Your Ideal Client’s Journey
Law firm client service starts way before you begin the client intake process. In fact, the first stage in their buyer’s journey begins with your target client realizing they have a problem that you can fix. Your buyer’s journey is also like a hero’s journey from many classic tales. Most lawyers make the mistake of making themselves the hero in the journey- you’re actually the guide and your client is the hero- you’re leading them up to the end result.
The buyer’s journey is the process your client goes through to find you, consider, and evaluate what you have to offer and to ultimately decide to purchase your service. And in this journey, lawyers all too often make themselves the “hero” rather than the guide.
Understanding your ideal client’s journey allows you to better serve them in every stage, and it starts even before they hire you. When you understand client journey mapping, you begin providing value and answers to their concerns in order to acquire the client. The client buyer’s journey includes five stages: awareness, consideration, hiring, engagement, retention.
- Awareness: In this stage, your client is learning more about you. They may or may not have a legal need at this time.
- Consideration: The client has a legal need and is deciding whether you’re the right choice for them.
- Hiring: The client decides to become your client and the client-attorney relationship begins.
- Engagement: During this time, your client is engaging with you and your law firm.
- Retention: Even after the legal matter reaches a resolution, you’ll want to maintain the business relationship.
To understand your ideal client’s buyer’s journey, interview both your current and potential clients to pinpoint how they found, considered, and chose you instead of the competition. Ask your clients questions such as:
- What original concern did you have that made you seek legal services?
- What methods did you use to research potential solutions?
- How did you decide which solution was right for you?
- What criteria did you use to evaluate law firm offerings?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to dig deeper into your client’s journey and discover what you can do to make it a simpler process and enhance the client experience.
Designing Your Prices, Rates & Fees with Law Firm Client Service in Mind
When designing your prices, rates, and fees, consider your niche and what those clients need when seeking your services. Do they only want to pay for what they receive? Or, are they willing to pay a set rate for the promise of a solution? Do your research to discover what they want and then design accordingly.
What Are Your Competitors Charging?
You want to remain as competitive as possible, not undervaluing your services or asking for way too much. Conduct research by speaking with other attorneys in your area or looking into the industry average for similar services. For example, are firms in your area offering fee-based or free lawyer consultations?
As a solo or small law firm, you have plenty of options when it comes to your pricing structure. For example, offering unbundled legal services can be a more affordable option for your client, while securing work for you. Other options such as subscription-based models and flat fee structures give you more control.
Whichever you choose, make sure to weigh the pros and cons and research both your ideal client’s needs and your competition’s structure first.
Client Diversity, Access & Inclusion
Everything from your online presence to the way you conduct client intake should follow this simple rule: client service is for everyone—and they are expecting it. Your legal services should be accessible to every audience, including those with disabilities or non-native English speakers.
Around 57 million Americans have a disability. Out of that number, approximately 38 million have a severe disability. According to the Census Bureau, these individuals may have impairments that impact the accessibility of websites, apps, documents, and more.
For example, 8.2% have difficulty lifting or grasping, impacting their use of a mouse or keyboard. Around 8.1 million have a vision impairment, requiring them to rely on a screen magnifier or screen reader.As a solo attorney or small law firm, it’s important to ask yourself what would make each part of the client experience easier for readers from all walks of life. It’s critical to follow certain law firm accessibility standards to help you design a better client experience for all.
Managing Client Communication
One of the most common Bar complaints is an attorney’s failure to communicate. Attorneys are often busier than they should be, which impacts their ability to communicate effectively with clients. On the other hand, clients are often anxious and stressed about their legal concerns and the process of hiring an attorney to help. They depend on communication to feel secure.
It’s in this emotionally trying time that attorneys focused on offering client-focused service can shine. Managing law firm client communications effectively has the ability to set you apart from your competition by helping you provide the type of communication your client’s want.
First things first, practice active listening. Regardless of the method of communication, never listen to your client in order to respond. Instead, listen in order to understand. Reflect back to your client what he or she said, ask for clarification when you need it, and always be patient.
Second, be sure you have a process in place to keep up with client communication, especially if you’re on your own. No one should fall through the cracks. Make use of customer relationship management (CRM) technology to track your clients and use client portals for better, more secure, and easier communication. Here are some other tips for effective client communication.
- Set clear guidelines for client communication. As early as client intake, communicate with your client about expectations. Set clear guidelines on what communication method is best and when your client can expect it.
- Prepare in advance. For each meeting with a client, be sure to prepare in advance. This will help you stay on target and focused during your time with them.
- Schedule routine communication. Whether through email or via your client portal, make sure you’re communicating with your client on a consistent basis. It’s important that your client feels connected to you throughout the legal process.
Draft Client Communications and Legal Documents in a Reader-Centric Way
The legal industry is full of jargon that may roll right off your tongue, but it’s difficult for your clients. Around 50% of U.S. adults can read at an 8th-grade level. Above that, the percentage drops drastically. In fact, most U.S. adults read the best at a 3rd-5th-grade level. Most legal documents require a reading level of at least 12th grade to comprehend.
When it comes to client communications and legal documents, your client should understand what they’re reading to help avoid miscommunication and a bad experience. The easiest way to do this is to use plain language and focus on improving readability.
How to Enhance the Readability of a Document
Use a word processor to check the readability of your document. If it’s too high, use these tips to enhance the readability of your document or client communication:
- Use plain language. Avoid industry jargon where you can. This is especially helpful when writing emails to your clients. If you need to explain it, it’s not simple enough.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs. Keep sentences under 20 words and paragraphs to 3-4 sentences only.
- Avoid using passive voice. Use active voice instead.
- Use your white space and headings for easy skimming. When a client needs to skim a document, it’s hard when the text is pushed together. Use your white space and document headings to give them a break.
Client Intake, Onboarding & Delivery Experience
What better place to put your client-centered approach to work than at the very first touchpoint you have with your clients? Your law firm’s client intake process is the first place your clients truly get to see your services at work.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your client intake, onboarding, and delivery.
- Automate your client intake process. Client intake and CRM automation tools help you streamline the entire intake process. A faster intake equals faster service—a win for both you and your clients.
- Design a seamless client intake experience. Create a repeatable process system for each new client to keep your systems efficient with the use of law practice management software. Keep any intake forms simple and use task lists to ensure you receive everything you need to get a jumpstart on the work.
- Create a welcome package to onboard your clients. A welcome package complete with information about the legal matter, client tools, and the best way to reach you is a great way to go from intake to onboard.
- Consider using a virtual receptionist. If you’re a solo attorney or a small firm, using a virtual receptionist can help you keep track of client intake, communication, and necessary deliverables.
- Prepare for the initial interviews and ongoing communication in advance. That first interview is critical and sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. Prepare in advance by gathering pertinent information about the client and deciding what further information you need for success.
- Respond to client concerns quickly. In any service-oriented business, client communication is key. Respond to your clients promptly, even if you can’t do anything to fix or change a situation. Your response alone is enough in some cases.
Getting Client Feedback and Relentlessly Improving Their Experience
Even after implementing all of these client-focused service tactics, you’re not finished yet. The best client experience requires relentless improvement. Clients change and so do their needs and desires. A client-centered firm understands these changes and updates accordingly.
The best way to maintain high law firm client satisfaction is to continually ask for feedback. This means asking for feedback on everything from your intake to the final deliverable. Collecting and acting upon client feedback is a must for any business.
How to Receive Client Feedback
There are several ways to receive critical client feedback. Here are just a few:
- Ask for it. This is as simple as it gets. Simply ask your clients how they’re feeling about your process, even while they’re still involved.
- Send out an exit survey. After the final delivery, send out an exit survey and allow your clients to give you honest feedback about your services. If they don’t fill it out the first time, follow up.
- Ask your social media followers. An indirect way to gather feedback is to ask your followers questions on social media and allow them to weigh in. For example, “what do you feel law firms lack?”
Law firm client service has the ability to make or break your solo practice or small firm. In an industry that depends on client satisfaction, change your focus to provide service your clients will keep coming back to.
Another way for you to see feedback is through your Net Promoter Score. An NPS survey asks existing or former clients how likely they are to recommend your firm to their friends and family or colleagues on a scale of one to ten with ten being “extremely likely” to recommend and one “not at all likely.” A score of nine or ten means that person is a promoter. A score of seven or eight is neutral, which is ignored in the NPS calculation. Six and lower is a detractor.
Learn More About Becoming Client-Centered With Lawyerist
Becoming a client-centered firm starts when you ask, “what do my clients need and how can I deliver it?” If you’ve asked yourself that question, know you’re not alone. In fact, there are many attorneys just like you, on a mission towards becoming client focused. As a Lawyerist Insider, you’ll have access to tools, information and other attorneys who can help you grow your firm. We’re all in this together.