In the good olde days, “legal services” was consider one word. And it meant the legal product(s) produced by lawyers; that is, the complaint, contract, employment agreement, closing documents, etc. etc. In other words it was all about the “legal” and had less to do with HOW the legal “services” were delivered or how the client was treated.
It comes as no surprise that that is no longer the case. Moreover, we are part of a mature industry, and in a new normal in how lawyers ply their trade. One reasons is that there are too many lawyers. According to a ranking of the Top 50 law schools by AboveTheLaw.com blog, only 54% of 2012 graduates have full time, bar required jobs, and that only 10,000 of the 60,000 jobs lost in 2008 have returned.
In addition, in today’s mature market there is greater competition among law firms and between firms and non-legal providers (tax accountants, financial planners, and software), not to mention off-shore law firms. Other factors such as lower realization rates, and alternative fee arrangements are all impacting the legal marketplace.
Thus, it is vital to hang on to the important clients you already have. Your key or “crowned jewel” clients, if you will. Believe me, what and how “services” are delivered has everything to do with keeping them. Bottom line: the services aspect of legal services is even more critical today.
Clients expect greater service and value. What are a few of these expectations? Meeting (or exceeding) deadlines, being responsive, excellent communications, no surprises, and, yes, some freebies – e.g., CLE, no charge for short phone calls, photocopying (major litigation/transactions excluded), and even some free advice.
So, what’s a firm to do to get on top of and ensure they are providing good client service? Here are three suggestions:
- Seek feedback – before (to meet expectations), during (to see how things are going), and after (to see how things went and what could be improved) an engagement;
- Improve communications – ask clients how and how often they want to be communicated with and about what (e.g., status reports, consultations, developing issues, etc., and whether by memo, email or telephone); and
- Visit clients (off the clock) – to learn more about their business/industry, what concerns are keeping them up at night, etc. This shows you are truly interested in the client’s business and, it just so happens, often leads to immediate new work.
If your firm provides quality client services, you will not only continue to get their work, but obtain new clients when they tell others about the quality of your legal (product) and services.