In today’s competitive legal market, clients want a law firm that does more than simply attend to its legal issues. Exceptional client service at law firms has become table stakes, yet with ten percent of business clients saying their firms failed to meet their expectations, that service is far from universally satisfactory. This finding comes from the Thomson Reuters Business Client Experience survey, and the message is clear: Clients are looking for firms that are engrained with their industries and act with urgency to address potential issues before they become a real problem.
Here are five tips to help you become the partner business clients want:
- Know the client’s industry inside and out: Become familiar with the unique instances and issues that occur in it. Numerous solutions can help you keep track easily. Having historical data and understanding cases involving key players in the industry can give you insight into the types of issues that may arise for your client. It goes without saying that you must be competent with laws pertaining to the central business. However, understanding related laws and industry trends can only improve your position for success in legal matters and winning new business.
- Master the practice areas that matter to your client: As you become familiar with the client’s industry and ancillary laws that could impact its business, take stock of the areas where you may not have the level of expertise necessary to handle a given matter. Take the time to get up to speed in these areas so you are never in a position where you might have to turn the business away or refer it to another firm. Not only will it help you better understand the client’s overall business and industry, but it will also make you that much more adept at identifying potential issues. This approach also allows you to customize your service and establish yourself as a true business partner.
- Connect with the client regularly: Consistent in-person meetings can be difficult to schedule. However, a simple email or phone call can accommodate regular contact that engenders trust and loyalty with the client. Regularly checking in with clients will improve communication and open doors to conversations you may not normally have. Research across the legal industry clearly shows that clients appreciate and prefer regular communication from their attorneys. Forty-four percent of business clients were dissatisfied with their firms’ responsiveness. Consistent communication not only allows you to keep the client up-to-date, but it also allows them to keep you informed about any concerns and needs they have—which leads directly to more business for you.
- Review previous matters and their outcomes: If you have a current relationship with the client, keep track of the matters you have handled. Go back and refresh yourself on the types of issues that have come up previously and how they were resolved. When a similar situation arises, knowing how the client responds to the actions you’ve taken in the past can help you formulate a better and more agreeable strategy on the current matter. This starts with asking your clients how satisfied they are with your service. Clients are quick to notice when their firms don’t perform this type of follow-up, and doing so ignores perhaps the best opportunity to gauge client satisfaction.
- Document everything while working with a client: On a related note, documentation is key to becoming a client’s business partner. Beyond keeping track of the client’s matters, keep track of their preferences for communication, billing and other aspects not directly related to the matter itself. What procedural questions did they ask? What concerns did they raise? What was important to them beyond the outcome? Knowing all these things and proactively addressing them makes you all the more valuable to the client.
To learn more about how business clients are demanding more from their firms and what you can do to respond, download our white paper, Discerning Business Clients Are Forcing Law Firms to Raise Their Games.