In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, solo attorney Joleena Louis explains how lawyers can improve customer service by properly educating clients.
As solos, we are often consumed with the day-to-day obligations of running our own law practices. It can sometimes be difficult for us to stop and take a moment to put ourselves in our client’s shoes.
We tend to forget that, while we might be familiar with the ins-and-outs of the legal process, our clients don’t have the same level of understanding. What seems simple to us can be confusing to someone who has never been involved in a legal action before. Lawyers who consistently provide great customer service know this and do something about it.
I personally learned this lesson when I didn’t explain how long it would take for the judgment of divorce to be signed and my client was very upset because they thought it was going to happen right away. It really opened my eyes to the fact that great customer service is simply a matter of properly educating clients throughout their case and not doing so will damage your relationships.Great customer service is simply a matter of properly educating clients throughout their case Click To Tweet
Taking the time to explain the legal process to a client in simple terms that they can understand will lead to a meaningful increase in client satisfaction. Here are some key ways solo attorneys can educate their clients:
Educate clients about the process
Uncertainty breeds fear, which is why your client will panic if they feel like they have no idea what will happen next in their case. You can prevent a lot of frantic emails and phone calls by breaking down the entire process from the start.
By process I mean both the legal process and your personal business process. For example, there are certain forms and information that I request from my clients long before they are required to disclose them to the court.
I do this at several points throughout my representation of divorce clients, starting with the consultation. Then, I remind them again with a flow chart I include in my new client intake packet, and I always explain the next step in the process after each step is completed.
Doing this has reduced the number of “what happens next” and “how long will this take” phone calls and emails I receive from clients, which makes maintaining timely communication with them much easier. Receiving fewer emails and calls reduces the chances that I’ll forget to return a contact.
I give them all the information they need in advance so they only reach out when there is a truly pressing matter. As a result, people generally feel more at ease and my inboxes stay at a manageable level.
Educate clients about your fees
Educating your clients about your fees early on will improve your law firm’s client service because it helps prevent any scrutiny or disagreement in the future. You never want to present a bill to your client that makes them feel blindsided.
I know many solos who are uncomfortable talking about money because they don’t want to make their clients feel as if that’s all they are after. I’ve found the opposite to be true.
Educating my clients about my fees and invoicing up front affirms the value of the service and generally makes my clients feel that the fee is worth it. By being completely open and transparent about my pricing, they know there are no hidden fees and that I will do everything possible to help keep their fees at a reasonable amount.
At my consultations, I discuss my fees, the differences between flat fees and hourly fees, and why my fees may be higher than another attorney they’ve met with. I also make it very clear that I do not offer discounts and my fees must be paid in advance.
I explain the payment process, when and how I send invoices, when retainers must be replenished and what will happen if payment is not made. For clients who choose a hourly fee retainer, I include a list of tips for keeping costs down in my intake packet.
Educate with answers to common questions
If you have been practicing for a while, you’ll start getting the same questions over and over. Save both you and your clients time by providing answers to these common questions in advance.
There are many different ways to do this. You can create an FAQ section on your website, draft canned responses for emails, or provide the answers in a brochure as part of your intake packet.
I recently recorded a webinar about the most common New York child support questions, which I plan to forward to my new child support clients.
Educating your clients will improve your law firm’s client service because it will make them feel more comfortable with you and the legal process. It’s the easiest way to build trust because your clients will know they can count on you to explain everything to them in detail.
Answering questions in advance and anticipating needs makes you look more professional and experienced. It also creates a sense of gratitude because you will be providing clients with answers to questions they didn’t even know they had yet.
Your foresight in answering these questions will make your clients feel confident they made the right choice in hiring you as their lawyer and will certainly result in more repeat business for your firm.