5 Ways Law Firms Can Improve Client Relationships
Dealing with clients and building relationships are two different things. Although you're offering a legal service, showing signs of understanding and empathy can go a long way in enhancing their experience.
You're going to be spending a lot of time with this person. Knowing their situation can improve your representation, client-attorney relationship and even how they view your practice. Not only does it help in your current case, but it can lead to firm growth and positive word of mouth.
Let’s explore how to improve your client relationships:
Connect on an emotional level
There's no such thing as a guide to building connections with clients. People from all sorts of backgrounds will come to your practice looking for legal help. That means you'll have to get to know them, be empathetic and understand who they are. When it comes to the lawyer-client relationship, first get to know them–then the case.
Have some questions ready to break the ice, but really listen to their answers–it’s an opportunity to learn a lot about them. If clients feel heard, they'll feel calmer in your presence. This makes it easier for them to recall events, make critical decisions and grow a rapport with you as an attorney.
Being empathetic doesn't mean you have to take their emotions home with you. Be understanding, but leave tough times at the door.
Automate simple processes
Building client relationships takes time. And when odd jobs start to take over your day, you leave fewer opportunities to see them. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone–80% of small firms admit to spending too much time on administrative tasks (Thomas Reuters Institute). It all adds up as attorneys only spend 56% of their working hours on actual client work.
Take back time in your day by automating processes like your bookings or payments. Online scheduling software like Setmore can confirm appointments in the background while you're with a client. They still feel taken care of as they automatically receive appointment confirmations and reminders whenever they book. Whereas LawPay takes the stress out of chasing invoices with quick and easy payments.
Software today can take a load off your plate and get you back to helping clients. With administrative tasks taken care of, your receptionists have more time to greet people coming into your firm and make them feel at ease.
Keep up with community activities
Trust between attorneys and the general public isn’t high–only 35% of American adults say they can trust a lawyer (Rasmussen Reports). Whether this is from the slick portrayal of lawyers on television, the combative nature of the courtroom or the seriousness of needing representation, soothe their perceptions and show you're on their side.
Step out into your local area and get involved to improve how people see your firm. Client relationships are built on trust–it's easier to form if they feel like they already know who you are. You'll appear more credible, genuine and approachable.
If there's a local university, offer to speak. Go to schools for career days. Help community initiatives with any legal advice they may need. If you want to get your hands dirty, participate in tree-planting projects. You have endless opportunities to become a standout figure in your area–it even doubles as networking.
Be the first to communicate
As with any relationship, communication is key. Being open and honest can help show your value to a client and build trust. But to really establish a connection, being the first to reach out can take things to the next level.
An unprompted message goes a long way. It can be a simple text, a quick call for an update or even reaching out to check their understanding of recent developments. It's an easy way to demonstrate your investment in their case and well-being–drop in to show you're all in.
Being the first firm to pick up their call also matters. Using an answering service like LEX Reception ensures you never miss their call. Even if it's not you, a voice that understands them is at the end of the line. And for clients who want appointments confirmed instantly, you can always add a ‘book now’ button to your website.
Manage and deliver on expectations
Clients don't want you to promise the moon–they want to know your firm can deliver and transparency. Although their expectations may be high, it is better to manage them from the beginning rather than overselling them.
According to The Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer report, 83% of clients say it's important they trust the firm that deals with their case. To earn their trust, establish what they expect from you early and be up-front in your communication. Let them know what attorneys will work with them, who will represent them, or what fees they could face.
Understanding their needs and how to meet them makes you more likely to exceed expectations. As the case develops and things change, ensure you talk with them about how it affects them. An open, two-way relationship keeps everyone's feet on the ground.
Impact of the attorney-client relationship
Growing your firm isn't as easy as putting up a billboard or sending targeted online ads. In a State of U.S. Small Law Firms study, the American Bar Association found 75% of lawyers faced challenges acquiring new client business–it's a tough egg to crack. But by forming a good rapport with your clients, you're more likely to get repeat business and see new people come through the door.
Adding a form to your intake process can be an effective tool for conversation starters and getting to know more about the person sitting across from you. But keep it light initially; a friendly face can allow them to open up.
Remember, every client is different and may want to keep things surface-level. That's totally fine; you're there to serve them. Whatever helps create your best possible relationships is the way to go.