For your law firm to compete in today’s market, you must be progressively customer-centric. It is more than being responsive and tailoring strategies for individual clients. It is ensuring that your firm evolves the operations mentality to focus more on client needs throughout their lifecycle – from intake to matter conclusion.
One critical, if not obvious, component of meeting client demands is clearly understanding those demands. By engaging with your client and asking the right questions, your firm will be better equipped to provide the exceptional service clients expect. Three of the most common client requests – and how to have insightful conversations about them – are discussed below.
- Flexible fees – don’t assume concerns about cost and budgeting
- Transparency – it can have different meanings for each client
- Project management – clients want to feel involved
1. Flexible fees
The mere mention of “fees” might lead one to believe that this is purely about cost-cutting and budgetary concerns. The answer, however, may be more complex.
Perhaps clients are interested in financial solutions like working within a fixed budget. Or there may be a fee structure they already have in mind. There may also be services that the client is ultimately just unwilling to pay for.
Determining exactly what the client is asking for when they say they want flexible fees ultimately comes down to having a detailed conversation. These clients want a firm that both listens to their needs and responds accordingly. It may be more about the client’s perception of a firm that is willing to listen and work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. If they feel that their firm of choice is eager to understand and collaborate, that customer-oriented nature may be just as critical as the ability to find a budgetary solution.
A request for transparency may feel like a challenge at first. Is it even possible to give a client a glimpse behind the curtain of a process so complex? Rather than dismissing it or explaining the technological difficulty of such a request, try to understand the root cause of the request.
One reason for the request for transparency may be a result of a mistake or misstep by a previous firm. This client may have their guard up. By addressing this head-on, you can alleviate those concerns.
Another reason may be that clients want to feel like they’re an integral part of the process. Clients expect to be treated more as a colleague than a client. A solution to this may be as simple as using a legal project management software such as HighQ to give clients access to information and materials specific to their matters. “Lawyers and clients alike are very happy with HighQ,” says Howard Janis, COO at Nexsen Pruet. “It helps the legal profession because you are working collaboratively. Clients can see results faster and because everyone is on the same page, there should be no misunderstandings.”
Clients don’t want to be considered as end users. They need to be a part of an ongoing conversation with you until the task is completed – and beyond that.
In the post-lockdown era, hybrid work is now a standard way of doing business. No longer do you and your client need to be in the same physical location necessary for collaboration or for transparency. Regardless of where each party is, you can remain in regular, high-level communication. While transparency can help you demonstrate your value to the client, transparency can also mean many things to different people. Determining what that means to each of your clients can be the difference between retaining and losing their future work.
3. Project management
A client wants to feel involved in every step of the process. Simply being able to access the deal room and see who is working on their file can go a long way towards personalizing your firm’s services for the client. Additionally, clients may want to make a substantial personal investment in the project management plan’s success, and the best way to accomplish this is to enable them to see their law firm’s progress in real-time.
They may already be familiar with the process and want to be up to speed on details such as who the project manager is, what the budget for the project is, and how workflow is being directed on a weekly or daily basis. With the right legal project management tool in place, clients will be able to know at what stage their attorneys are at and be aware of any problems or opportunities that occur.
Make client intake a positive experience
It’s become trite to say that clients are more demanding than ever. But it’s a truth that deserves more than a knee-jerk reaction from law firms. By asking probing, meaningful questions as part of the intake process, your client will feel respected and heard. It allows you the opportunity to truly understand their needs while managing expectations upfront.
Having these conversations at the outset provides value for all parties. That value – oftentimes undefinable and elusive – can be the key to a long-term, successful business relationship.