When you graduated law school and passed the bar exam, did you make the fool-hearted assumption that you would spend most of your time as a lawyer practicing law?
While I knew that networking, marketing, billing and business development were all parts of being a lawyer, like many new attorneys, I naively didn’t anticipate how much time each of those activities would actually take day in and day out.
Although there are a variety of non-law related aspects of practicing law, acquiring new clients is often at the top of a lawyer’s list of priorities. In big firms, business development is an expectation for attorneys, but in small firms, it is a necessity.
According to a Thomson Reuters study examining small law firm challenges, three quarters of lawyers say business development is either a moderate or significant challenge, with 28 percent saying that it is a significant challenge.
Another significant challenge for lawyers is managing time spent on administrative tasks, with 70 percent of lawyers saying it is either a moderate or significant challenge and 25 percent say it is a significant challenge, according to the study.
As I’ve shared previously, tech competency is becoming increasingly more important for lawyers, and learning about new technology and how to integrate tech tools in your practice also can take a good amount of time and effort.
While having the ability to balance and manage competing demands is important in nearly all professions, in law, it is particularly important that we make clients feel as though they are king or queen. Their matter is what matters most to them, and generally speaking, we are working with clients to get through difficult personal or professional situations that more than likely is giving them a bit of anxiety or consternation.
They are counting on us for guidance, and sometimes, solace. There’s no magic recipe balancing the demands of the profession, but there is a key ingredient for client satisfaction – consistent communication.
If law firms are not seeking input from their clients, they may not recognize when they are underperforming or failing to meet client expectations. And when it comes to cultivating long-lasting client relationships, no news often doesn’t mean good news – it may mean the client didn’t have an adequate opportunity to communicate.
Systematically asking for client input is one way your firm can help clients feel valued. However, the recently released Legal Trends Report, covered by The Indiana Lawyer, indicates that only “4 percent of the nearly 2,000 lawyers surveyed regularly collect formal client feedback in the form of surveys, interviews, etc. Instead, 37 percent said gathering client feedback is not a regular part of their practice, while 42 percent said they ask about client satisfaction only casually or informally.”
With one of the biggest client complaints being “broken promises and unmet expectations” according to Above the Law, it seems that implementing a system to garner client feedback is not only fairly simple, but also fairly savvy.
Another common complaint from clients cited by Above the Law, unsurprisingly, is an overall failure by lawyers to communicate quickly or effectively. Further information from Thomson Reuters shows that clients expect a quick response from their attorneys – with 41 percent of consumers expecting a response to an email within 6 hours. If you’re firm isn’t meeting that expectation, how will your client feel like their matter matters to you?
Client-centric law firms emphasize communication, and they are not only the wave of the future, but a model that gives your firm a competitive edge, according to the 2017 book Law is a Buyer’s Market.
I’ve shared that “bedside manner” is very high on the list of client concerns, and that client-centricity means that your firm’s operations need to prioritize your client’s needs. With so many ways to automate communication – from scheduled emails to case updates to satisfaction surveys, it is evident that the best way to make your client feel valued is to give them access and easy ways to communicate.