Okay all you rocket scientists out there, you know that “good” is better than “bad.” So, why do some law firms still surprise their clients in bad ways.  By that I mean, fail to meet deadlines, fail to attend to and keep clients informed about their matters (the basis of 80% of grievances filed against lawyers BTW), as well as not communicating generally by not returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner, charging way more than the client expects without forewarning them, etc. etc.

Recognizing that the aforementioned all annoy the heck out of clients, why do some attorneys still do these things?  Don’t “they” realize it is dumb marketing?  Apparently not.

Rather doesn’t it make sense to do the kinds of things that surprise clients in favorable ways? Of course it does, say all you rocket scientists!

My friend Merrilyn Astin Tarlton on Attorney at Work highlights a number of surprises that will please clients. I too have been arguing the benefits of several of them over the years, such as:

  • Visit your clients off the clock. This is No. 1 on my “Kane’s Top Ten Marketing Tips” list. Thus, I am happy to see Tarlton place “go calling” first on her list of how to favorably surprise clients.  It simply involves dropping by or scheduling a non-billable visit to your client’s office to learn more about their business and “understand what their enterprise looks, feels and sounds like.” BTW it often leads to immediate new work;
  •  Befriend your client (criminal defense lawyers can ignore this one). Genuinely compliment your client on anything that they are likely to be proud of.  Relationship building goes beyond doing a good job for a client. Believe it or not clients are human too;
  • Help your client avoid future problems.  This is like seeing “the big picture,” according to Tarlton. Provide training and advice as to how to avoid legal problems that you’ve handled for the client. Yeah, they’ll be shocked by that one, but in fact, it will lead to more business and referrals from a very surprised client;
  • Under promise and over deliver. This one I’ve mentioned on several occasions over the years, and you can find reference to several posts on the topic here. Tarlton’s idea of promising it by Friday but deliver it on Thursday is exactly the point. Clients will truly be surprised, since they are more use to barely getting the legal product when promised, much less early;
  • Thank your clients for the business. As Tarlton points out remember “who is doing who a favor.” And I particularly like handwritten notes, sent in hand-addressed envelopes. Oh, an email doesn’t come close as a surprise factor;
  • Seek feedback. Yes, at various stages of your client encounters, ask how you are doing, how you did and what you could better in the future. Too few law firms bother (or are afraid to ask), so it does surprise clients when lawyers ask about their level of satisfaction with the legal services provided.

Actually, some clients are not surprised when firms do some or all of these things, because there are firms out there that are very smart when it comes to developing business.