We hear a lot today about how law firms must add more value to their client services in light of the competitive nature of our industry. Value-added services might include recognizing the value of a client’s time in reading emails. It may be a simple thing and on first thought not significant in adding value. I would respectfully disagree.

There is too much crud sent in emails, and everyone, no matter what business they’re in, is overwhelmed with emails daily. Clients are no different, and lawyers can be as guilty as anyone in sending emails that could be more succinct.

Patrick Lamb has a post on his In Search of Perfect Client Service blog that struck me as a simple and effective way to get to the point in an email. His three suggestions should help avoid wasting people’s time in reading them:

  1. Subject line. It should be short and to the point. State “Jones” or “Jones case” instead of Jones vs. ABC international Manufacturing Corporation. As Lamb states, the client knows their name. It should also include the urgency or time sensitivity or “not urgent”, and finally what action is needed;
  2. Get to the point in the first sentence. Let the client know what needs to be done and when right up front; for example “Signature required by COB 3/31/2015.” Then you can elaborate as necessary; and
  3. Explain the attachment. Since most people today look at their emails on their smart phone and attachments are not easily opened, let them know what is in the attachment. They can decide whether they need to open it right now.

So, if you want to impress clients with your efficiency and respect for their valuable time, you might take Lamb’s suggestions to heart. It’s a good way to add value to your services. A simple process, and one that could pay marketing dividends.

There’s a lot of talk these days about lawyers adding more value to their client representation. Particularly because of competition, client demands, and the state of the legal industry, adding value REALLY is important. Just providing a legal product is not enough.  But it begs the question what adding value really means.

Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, had a good idea last week which helps in getting to an answer. He said “…the question is whether there is something extra you can provide the client that is related to the legal services and is useful to the client.” It can be done in many ways. One opportunity he mentions at the conclusion of his post states “… if you can surprise the client at the end of the representation with something useful that they didn’t expect, you increase the chances that they will use your firm again, refer others to you and pay their final bill.”

A couple of years ago I wrote a post that included 5 suggestions by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing for creating more value that are worth repeating:

  • Measure. Determine what value you are providing clients already (yeah, the client can help here of course, but that means talking to them about that). You might find that either clients aren’t getting enough value, or that you are not charging enough;
  • Lead. Be upfront and offer ways to help clients more effectively with their business or personal issues. Writing articles, making presentations, blogging, creating groups on social media sites are ways to show that leadership capability;
  • Teach. The best kind of selling his education-based. Demonstrate how clients can do things well or avoid problem situations via CLE seminars or otherwise;
  • Inspire. Here Jantsch is talking about how a great design (in marketing materials, websites, even invoices) can create value. One might think that this suggestion is a bit fuzzy, and I would not disagree. However, design could be a promise of value and that is where something; and
  • Listen. Clearly listening to clients adds value. That may seem pretty obvious, but “we rarely do it.” Yet, if you focus, avoid distractions (like your iPhone or blackberry), look them in the eye and really listen, you will add tremendous value.

Then there is the “51 Practical Ways for Law Firms to Add Value,” developed by the Law Firm Value Committee of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

So, if you are trying to come up with ways to add value to your legal services, there should be plenty to consider for implementation by you and your law firm.