by John Remsen, Jr
For most law firms, satisfied existing clients are the best source of future business.They will continue to use your
services when they need a lawyer, and they are your best referral source for new clients.
Yet, most clients can’t fully appreciate quality legal work because they aren’t lawyers. Rather, they judge the quality of your work based on service-related issues, and how they are treated when they deal with you and your firm.
Allow me to use the analogy of the automobile mechanic. If you own a car, you need a good, trustworthy mechanic to keep the car running smoothly and to fix problems as they arise.You don’t necessarily want to know what’s going on under the hood of your car. Your mechanic is supposed to know all that stuff. And you trust him to treat you right.
If you are like me, you assess the quality of your mechanic’s work based on the way you are treated and whether or not you trust him. Does he listen to you when you bring the car in for servicing? Does he keep your car running smoothly? Does he provide an estimate before he starts the work? Is his final bill reasonable and within the estimate? Is your car clean and ready when promised?
These are the same factors that clients apply to lawyers and other professional service providers.They don’t necessarily want to know the intricacies of the law. They want a good result. They want to feel like you are taking good care of them.And they want to trust you.These factors are especially important when you are dealing with a brand new client.
With that introduction, here are my “Ten Golden Rules to Make Your New Clients Happy.”
(1) Send Your New Client a “Client Welcome Kit”
Be sure to include your firm brochure, a client service pledge, a current list of contacts with direct dial phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and a nice welcome gift.
(2) Seek to Understand the Big Picture
The best lawyers—the ones who deliver the most value to their clients—take the time to learn about their client’s business (and personal) goals and objectives. Visiting your new client’s place of business is a great way to get things started on the right foot.
(3) Create Expectations and Then Exceed Them
Walk your client through how you propose to handle the matter and what he can expect in terms of results and timelines.
(4) Always Follow Through on Your Commitments
Nothing aggravates a client more than a broken promise. It also has a very serious negative consequence when it comes to building trust.
(5) Always Promptly Return Telephone Calls, Always
Clients get upset when you don’t return their phone calls. Adopt a policy to return all your calls and e-mail messages on the same day.
(6) Communicate in the Manner Your Client Prefers
Ask your new client the method and frequency of communication he prefers and deliver your updates and progress reports accordingly. If you can’t be flexible, tell your client up front how you operate.
(7) Introduce Your Client to the Team Working on His Matters
Take the time to invite your new client to your offices to meet the team who will be working on his matter. Be sure to include the paralegals, legal assistants, receptionist and others he is likely to be talking to on a regular basis.
(8) Resist the Temptation to “Overlawyer” the Matter
Trust me; clients don’t want to pay their lawyer more than necessary to have their matter properly handled. Be sensitive to the issue and do what’s right for your client.
(9) Never, Ever Send a Surprise Invoice
It’s good practice to discuss estimated fees and costs up front with your new client. Beyond failure to communicate, sending a bill that wildly exceeds expectations is one sure way to lose your new client.
(10) Show Your Client That You Appreciate His Business
Be sure to invite your client to your firm’s annual client appreciation event, take him to a ball game, play golf and invite him to lunch or dinner on occasion.
There is more to practicing law than providing quality legal work.You’ve got to provide great service, too. If you practice these golden rules consistently, you will end up with loyal, long-term clients and an enjoyable and gratifying legal career. And that’s a promise!
About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.