In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, solo lawyer Joleena Louis shares her top tips for keeping her clients happy, and how these positive relationships add value to your firm.
For my practice, the best way to start any client relationship is to ensure that you both have very clear expectations. This level starting point will lead to a happier and more productive experience with your client.
Also, how you treat your clients will become a defining part of your reputation, and your current clients can ultimately become some of your biggest brand ambassadors. Keeping them happy means increasing the likelihood they’ll refer you to their network.
But making sure your clients are completely happy and understanding of expectations can be a difficult task. Don’t forget that legal issues may be new and scary to our clients.To help, here are five quick things you can do to start the relationship with your clients on the right foot.
1. Discuss Fees and Scope At The Start
In your very first meeting with your client, you need to clearly discuss your fees, when/how they are to be paid, what they will be charged for and the scope of the representation.
This is not a one-time conversation, it should be an ongoing discussion. I put a reminder of my terms on my invoices and immediately remind my clients of the terms if there is a breach.
I know what to expect, they know what to expect and I rarely have issues getting paid.
2. Communicate Proactively
The most common complaint about lawyers from their clients is that there is a lack of communication. A really easy way to overcome this is to update your client (even if nothing is happening) before they contact you.
The frequency at which I do this depends on the client and what is happening in their case. For the most part, I give updates once a month with their invoice, but if the client needs more communication or a lot is happening with the case, I’ll do a weekly update.
This strategy seems time-consuming but it’s really not. I keep a running status report of all my cases and I simply copy my notes into an email. This takes me less than 45 minutes a week and is probably something I could easily delegate to my virtual assistant.
Spending 45 minutes sending emails takes much less time than fielding phone calls all week from clients who want to know what’s going on.
3. Be Honest About Outcomes
This one will make you lose some potential clients, but these clients would have been unhappy with you in the end anyway. Telling a client what they want to hear just to get the fee will result in much more trouble than it’s worth.
I’ve had clients whose cases didn’t go in their favor after many clear warnings from me, who were still happy with my representation and referred their friends and family. Despite not getting the outcome they wanted they appreciated my honesty throughout the entire process.
4. Explain The Process
Many lawyers forget that this simple step will give your clients peace of mind. Explain the entire legal process from start to finish, so they know what to expect. For example, I give my clients a divorce checklist that outlines the steps in the process, so they can see what has to be done and when.
It literally took me 20 minutes to create and my clients definitely appreciate it.
5. Ask For Feedback
The biggest change in my customer service came from asking for feedback throughout the relationship. Many lawyers ask for feedback after the case is over, but why not find out how to improve while you are still working on the case?
You can ask for feedback on your invoice, after every meeting or court appearance, or send quarterly surveys. Some clients won’t tell you they are unhappy until you ask.
Taking the time to lay out the expectations for the attorney-client relationship from the start will make things easier for both you and your client. Your ability to make their complicated situation easier will put your client at ease, add value to your services and help them to be happier overall.