| Natalie Fedie

Client Engagement: A Little Goes a Long Way for Legal Firms

Law firms can no longer depend on their reputation alone to be competitive in today’s environment. Clients want a law firm that conveys value through the experience they offer and the outcomes they deliver. Legal service consumers demand increased transparency, price predictability, efficient processes, and legal teams that understand their business. Law firms who are changing the way they think and work are seeing significant gains in acquiring and retaining clients.

 

A study of the British legal market, commissioned by LexisNexis and Judge Business School at Cambridge University, published an interesting report stating there is unambiguous evidence of a significant and persistent disconnect between law firms and their clients. While both sides are aware of the disconnect, their interpretations of the magnitude and underlying causes are different. The disconnect permeates everyday interactions and is increasingly prompting clients to look to non-traditional sources for legal services. The study highlighted a significant percentage gap between firms and clients– 80% of lawyers responded they’re good at client service while only 40% of clients said they received good service from their lawyers. In addition, a client may engage a law firm in multiple jurisdictions, and across multiple specialisms. Clients look for law firms to connect the dots, convey the bigger picture, suggest ways in which the law firm can create value for the client’s businesses (and not just reduce costs): the “whole must be more than the sum of the parts.” They look for investment in, and reassurance on, the relationship outside of any particular matter. All clients were uniformly of the opinion that not only do the law firms not provide relationship services, in many cases they do not seem to see the need. This difference in perspective is the main source of the disconnect and likely the reason for its persistent nature.

 

Firms who recognize the seriousness of this misalignment are investing in technology solutions to help standardize their project management and workflow processes, ultimately decreasing the number of administrative tasks so attorneys can focus on higher-value services. However, another remedy often overlooked that technology can have a significant effect on is enhancing the client experience by improving the quality and frequency of client engagement. In today’s world of information overload, one rule of thumb for successfully communicating with clients is delivering the right information, at the right time, through the right channels. A little engagement can go a long way in meeting client expectations and here are some suggestions on where to start that don’t take a lot of effort.

 

The Right Information

Effective communication can have an immense impact on a lawyer’s practice, and on the success of the law firm as a whole. There is a reason strong communication skills are some of the most important skills sought in job candidates, and putting a strong focus on good communications is at the heart of successful, loyal and long-lasting client relationships. Client satisfaction with the resolution of a legal problem is not always possible, but client satisfaction with effort, attitude, and communication is attainable.

 

There are several tools available for lawyers to learn how to improve their communications with clients. Learn what effective attorney-client communication looks like today in Strengthen Your Client Communication Skills, a free e-book from LawPay, the legal payments experts. Among the topics covered:

 

  • Fresh interview tactics for potential clients;
  • The science behind first impressions and expectation-setting;
  • The power of empathy and emotional intelligence; and
  • How to avoid the most common client communication mistakes.

 

At the Right Time

Outreach with legal clients should be proactive more than reactive. Set a regular schedule to ensure communication is consistent and frequent. Here are some additional tips on how to improve communications with clients for the 21st-century lawyer from Nicole Black, a New York attorney and legal technology evangelist.

 

  1. Ditch the landline and gain greater flexibility and mobility with VOIP (voice over internet protocol).
  2. Use client portals when you’re not available to answer a client’s call immediately, web portals can provide them with 24/7 secure access to their deal information.
  3. Replace your full-time receptionist and consider using an AI personal assistant for certain types of scheduling issues, such as when a potential client emails you or contacts you via an online form.

 

Through the Right Channel

Lawyers have an obligation when discussing sensitive information with clients to communicate in a secure manner and email encryption is hard to do right, which makes it a poor option for most attorney-client relationships. The best option is to use a client portal or collaboration features that are integrated into your transaction management software. Ultimately, for the best client experience, lawyers need to meet clients where they are, in a way that is convenient and efficient for them. All channels should be considered when communicating with clients and selecting the right channel for the right information is important to any engagement strategy. Alert Communications, a contract service provider for law firms, says lawyers can make the most of social media channels by increasing awareness, building leads, and most importantly, gaining new clients in their article Using Law Firm Social Media to Grow Your Client Base.

 

Tackle client dissatisfaction and differentiate your law firm by offering services that meet client engagement expectations. Leverage technology to streamline communications and collaborate with clients throughout the deal so they feel engaged and have transparency into the project.

 

For more tips on how to improve your client engagement, join us for our webinar “Mastering the Closing Process: Improving Client Engagement” on Wednesday, July 26th at 11:00 am ET. This discussion is ideal for anyone looking for more tips on how to add value to your client interactions and exceed client expectations. Register here!