For Virtual Office NYC lawyer, Vivian Sobers, repeat clients provide some much needed stability for her solo law practice.
One of the hardest things about going solo was the unpredictability of your income. It is hard to plan for things like retirement, savings, committing to hiring employees, paying a mortgage, and so forth; you never know, with any reasonable degree of certainty, what your monthly cash flow will be.
Dealing with uncertain cash flows is just a reality of being a self-employed solopreneur, but what I noticed was that as my roster of clients grew, over time, so did the amount of repeat work that I did with existing clients, which has had an important stabilizing effect on my business and personal economics.
If you know that a certain percentage of your clients will do repeat business every year, it brings a level of predictability to your cash flow at the beginning of the year.
You know that you won’t be starting from zero.
I am fortunate to have a practice where clients will do repeat work.
My practice is mostly civil litigation, but I also do some work in criminal court. It has been interesting, but representing clients on minor misdemeanors has often led to the client retaining me for a civil litigation matter.
For example, a client retained me to handle a DUI case. He owned a successful business and when a collections matter came up, he retained me to handle it. I have now done several cases for this client.
The civil litigation practice, in particular, lends itself to repeat business (at least I hope – for their sake – that my clients will not be retaining for multiple criminal court matters). Often these clients are business owners who end up in disputes, both large and small.
I realize that some practices, like divorce law, may be less likely to have have repeat clients. I have some thought about that below.
3 things I do to encourage repeat business.
I know it sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying: getting clients to do repeat business with you is all about keeping them happy. For my type of practice area, this is challenging because I am often hired to help clients through a very stressful time in their lives.
Often their assets, or freedom, may be at stake. As a litigator, I think it can be easy to become somewhat immune to this reality, especially when you are in court every day.
1. Consistent Communication.
Yes, we have an ethical obligation to communicate “regularly” with clients. But the standard that will keep you out of trouble with the legal ethics folks isn’t enough to keep clients happy.
I try to push out notices, calls or emails updating clients about everything that develops in their case. The more they understand what is going on, the more control they feel they have over a situation, which for them, is often the worst part of being involved in the case in the first place.
2. Timely Communication.
It’s not enough to have frequent communication with clients, it also needs to be timely. When you are buried in trial work, it’s easy to let a week slip by without notifying a client about a development in their case. This is bad for business.
It’s challenging for me to provide very timely notice. Often, it requires writing emails late at night. But when there is a development on a case, I try to notify my client within the same business day, or at least within 24 hours.
3. Reaching a Resolution Early On.
Yes, I could drag a case out and maybe get a slightly better result, but after a certain point, the return on a client’s investment in my services starts to see diminishing returns.
When clients realize this (which is usually when they get their final bill), they get upset and do not hire you again. This is often true even when the decision to continue with the case was their own.
Instead, I make the best case to my clients to convince them why they should wrap things up sooner than later.
Thoughts about practice areas won’t likely have repeat matters from clients.
For those practices areas, the focus should be more on developing a steady stream of referrals from happy clients. While it may not be likely that an immigration client will hire their attorney for repeat business, it’s very likely that the client will know other people who can use your services. On the spectrum of marketing techniques, getting referrals from happy clients is low hanging fruit.
You can create the same level of predictability in your practice by measuring how many referrals you can generate from existing clients every year, and consistently trying to hit that number with marketing tactics aimed at achieving that result. A simple newsletter could work in most cases.
Getting your clients to do repeat business with you means you are doing something right for them, and you are rewarded with much needed income stability as your practice grows.
How do you cultivate repeat business from clients? Comment below and give us your thoughts.
Having repeat clients is just one method of growing your solo law practice.
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Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.