4 Ways to Build Strong Client Relationships for Law Firms
The world is changing. Since 2008, legal services have evolved drastically from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. Client expectations are growing daily, and the same-old, same-old tactics for maintaining client relationships just don’t hold up anymore.
The truth is, if your law firm doesn’t invest in customer relationships, they will be one-time clients. That means trouble for your firm’s growth, profits, and long-term health.
75%of consumers look online for an attorney at some point during their search.
The best way to ensure that your firm exceeds a client’s expectations is to take customer experience to the next level. Below, we go through four simple but overlooked steps that your law firm should take to build strong, lasting relationships with your clients.
Your client interaction doesn’t end when they walk out the door, and it doesn’t begin when they walk through it.
1. Engage Clients Online
Humans are naturally social creatures; we value the opinions of people we care about. If a friend recommends a restaurant, we trust their opinion. Online engagement helps law firms demonstrate commitment through meaningful communication, building a foundation for successful client relationships and customer loyalty.
“In the digital age, with almost every American in possession of a mobile device that they carry with them everywhere, it is difficult to imagine how lawyers can compete for clients without engaging online.”
-American Bar Association, 2019
Customer loyalty is paramount in establishing a strong client relationship based on trust.
If a potential client visits a law firm’s website and notices dozens of positive reviews, testimonials, feedback, and responses from the law firm itself, they feel more connected to the firm. They’ll be more at ease about making the financial decision of hiring a lawyer.
Your firm should try these tips to invest in existing customers and engage with potential clients.
- Encourage Client Reviews
- Claim your Google My Business (GMB) page. Any reviews left by clients on your GMB listing help rank your website on Google. Other platforms like Yelp have review sites, but Google My Business is by far the most popular, so your firm should start there.
- Ask for reviews and give easy-to-follow directions. You can ask clients for reviews through email or a link on your website.
- Respond to reviews. Address concerns humbly or be gracious with compliments. Remember to respond to both positive and negative reviews. This will show clients that you are genuinely interested in their feedback and want to improve.
48% of prospects will visit a website after reading positive and recent reviews.
65% of law firm prospects found online reviews to be “extremely or moderately influential” in their decision.
Encourage On-Page Testimonials.
- Because potential clients usually browse a law firm’s website before contacting the office, it’s a good idea to include them on your homepage.
- Testimonials greatly influence potential clients. In fact, 92% of consumers believe testimonials and recommendations are the most reliable type of feedback.
- Client testimonials are helpful because they come from people who have personal experience working directly with the firm.
- Cost-effective and extremely useful, surveys give you insight into what your clients really think.
- By creating simple, open-ended questions, your firm can leverage its strengths and solidify client relationships in just one email.
- A helpful option is to send an end-of-service survey to your clients. These will help you improve in the future.
2. Show Gratitude
This is the fun one! What better way to demonstrate your firm’s appreciation for clients than with thoughtful gifts sent during important moments? A token of appreciation will reassert your value to clients.
Make It Personal.
- A thoughtful gift is better than an expensive one. You don’t have to splurge for your client to know you care about them. Your firm could include a handwritten note or personal message with your gift, or send a photo of the lawyers who worked on the case.
- Gifts with a personal touch can boost client retention and loyalty by making your customer feel valued.
- Show that your company prioritizes social responsibility by gifting sustainable or recycled items.
- Remember that not all gifts are tangible; consider donating to a charity in their name.
One of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received was a group of baby chicks that my family “adopted” for me. The animals lived on a sanctuary farm, but I received frequent photos and updates on how the chicks were doing. Although I couldn’t hold the gift, it meant the world to me.
Your firm could provide a similar gift to your clients that shows your social responsibility and involvement in the community.
- Although the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct does not specifically address gifts given by an attorney to a client, it does state that a lawyer should not provide financial assistance to a client whose case is currently pending or in progress. Exceptions may be found in Rule 1.8 of the ABA.
- It is important to be thoughtful with each client relationship, but be knowledgeable about the possible ethical ramifications.
Gift Ideas for Clients
- Chukar Cherries – Cherries, chocolate, fruits, and nuts grown in Washington that range from $12 to $100.
- Harry & David – Themed gift baskets and boxes for the meat and cheese lover or the pastry aficionado. These range from $25 to $200.
- Murray’s Cheese – Cheese of the Month club for clients who like fine foods. They also have biscuits, sweets, and prosciutto starting from $20.
For world travelers:
- Moleskine – One of the most popular journals worldwide, Moleskine boasts an assortment of notebooks for less than $10.
- Flight 001 – Any traveler will love an adapter plug that they can take with them. At around $35, your thoughtfulness is affordable.
For the eco-conscious:
- By Humankind – These refillable and eco-friendly personal hygiene products are thoughtful andsustainable. Prices range from $10 to $30.
- Ocean Bottle – Everyone can use a water bottle, and these are sustainably sourced and made of stainless steel. They are a little more than $50 each, but it’s an excellent investment for both you and your client.
- Pela – Pela has biodegradable cases that stand the test of time while also being compostable. These are an investment at $40+, but if you can get your client’s phone model, they will know you were paying attention.
3. Respond Promptly
Law Technology Today performed a benchmark study examining average interactions between law firms and their prospective clients. The participants posed as clients and called hundreds of law firms across the country. Their results were eye-opening:
Less than 10% of potential clients speak with a lawyer.
42% of the time, law firms took three or more days to respond to voicemails or online contact forms.
And as all law students know:
Reasonable communication between the lawyer and the client is necessary for the client effectively to participate in the representation.
-American Bar Association
The key word from the above quote is “reasonable.” Lawyers may have different opinions on what reasonable communication looks like, but it’s safe to say that having dozens of unanswered communications means you aren’t being reasonably available. That means you’re missing out on relevant and appropriate leads.
Your clients are reaching out to you because of a tragedy or stressful event in their lives. Put yourself in their shoes. If they are struggling with child custody, a life-threatening car accident injury, or their business breaking down, they expect prompt communication with their potential legal counsel. Would you wait around for days for a person to call you back or would you go to someone who will value your time?
To create a smooth and painless client intake process, your firm should hire an individual to answer phones and respond to emails promptly. A professional answering service would be even better, but evaluate your options for hiring and your firm’s long-term goals.
Respond within 24 business hours.
- Make it a practice to return calls, emails, or reviews in this window of time. In a matter of weeks, responding within 24 hours will become habitual.
- Use discretion when responding to business reviews.
- Never discuss private information or client details.
- Lawyers are bound to the ethical obligation of informing clients of their case progression.
- If you don’t have an answer, admit it. Promise to get back to the client when you find a solution.
- Set realistic expectations. If you are unable to meet a client’s expectations, be straightforward with them and brave enough to reassess those intentions with the client.
- Remember that clients appreciate integrity above all else.
In summary, most people would rather receive a negative reply to their query than no reply at all. As long as you maintain honest and courteous two-way communication, your clients will appreciate the effort you’ve taken to keep in touch with them.
4. Treat Your Clients like People
Attorneys are experts at measuring their abilities and impact – credentials, legal reasoning, thoroughness, effort, and ethical intent form a solid judgment of an attorney’s efficacy. It can be tempting for these already analytically-minded people to assign client value in the same way they would a settlement or contract.
However, settlements are not people. Contracts and monetary gains or losses do not define who a client is and how they should be treated.
The following are several methods your firm can use to increase and promote client satisfaction by simply treating them as people – with respect and kindness.
Be in tune.
- Many lawyers don’t have an accurate idea of what their clients think and believe. The answer to this dilemma is simple: ask them.
- Follow up with your clients without prompting.
- Try to anticipate questions and answer accordingly.
- If you can have your discussions or solutions in writing, do it. This lowers confusion on both sides.
Case in point: 24% of lawyers believe that consumers think the legal system is fair; 45% of consumers actually believe the legal system is fair.
During a client interaction:
- Encourage and be patient with questions. You should never make a client feel as if their inquiry is pointless or ignorant.
- Practice emotional intelligence and empathy during client interactions. This will help your clients trust you and help your staff respond well in difficult situations.
- Use active listening techniques when speaking with your client. This can reduce client anxiety and strengthen your relationship.
After a client interaction:
- Be available. Don’t disappear on them.
- Countless studies show that legal availability is one of the most important factors in client retention. Here’s the evidence: 68% of clients expect lawyers to be available outside of their office, and 59% expect lawyers to be available outside office hours.
- Check in on your clients. Follow up. And be considerate of what they are going through.
Much like EverSpark Interactive, law firms must utilize strong customer experience techniques to retain clients. In the legal industry, the balance continues to shift from a seller’s to a buyer’s perspective, and your firm must keep up if it wants to be successful. The above strategies are time-tested and proven to work.
In some ways, it seems so simple to build a stronger relationship with clients – of course law firms should respond promptly and treat their clients like people. However, these ideals can get lost in the day-to-day of a busy law firm. If you need help developing or managing these strategies, give EverSpark Interactive a call. We work with lawyers, but more importantly, we work with people.