Results matter. Getting our clients as much as we can, as quickly as we can, is our top priority. And that’s what our clients want also. A common theme in our client reviews and testimonials is “they got me my money quickly.” But being laser-focused on results only is not enough.
As head of one of the largest personal injury firms in the Southeast, I know that showing our clients that they matter is just as important. Testimonials that include phrases such as, “they listened to me” and “their actions allowed me to be worry free,” are some of my favorite types of testimonials. When our clients describe their experiences like that, they are likely to refer their friends and family members to us and call us first when they need legal assistance again. Being results-focused and client-centered keeps us competitive.
Remember, it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not about either catering to clients or bolstering the bottom line. The two are clearly linked and interdependent. A focus on the client should be at the core of every business process and decision your firm makes. A client-centric law office is more likely to secure the business of the client at the time of initial outreach and attain future business as its positive reputation and referrals network grow and spread.
Following are six steps that will help your firm balance its focus on profits with a focus on being client-centered.
Step 1: Get Results
First and foremost, law firms need to get favorable settlements or verdicts for their clients. You need to work hard, and fight hard, for your clients’ rights. Your attorneys need to care about results and have a sense of urgency. And your legal team needs tools to do this.
Our GrowPath case management software is instrumental in maximizing the value of each case. Pertinent case information is highly visible, minimizing mistakes. It also allows us to shave weeks-to-months off cases by saving time on everyday tasks with capabilities such as filter/search notes, logic-driven reminders, and click to call, email, and text. As a result, potential back-logs are highlighted and what needs to get done is prioritized. All this adds to the bottom-line and helps us provide a better client experience.
Step 2: Make a Good First Impression
When taking calls from prospective clients, the intake specialists for your law firm need to be friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you’re a small firm or solo practitioner, someone needs to quickly answer and respond to potential new client calls. A good working relationship begins with this initial call and is cemented through a thoughtful client onboarding process. Your intake specialist answering questions thoroughly the first time will save everyone time and hassle down the line. The quicker your firm assesses the matter and communicates the decision back to the potential client, the more confidence that person will have in your firm – whether or not you take the case.
Consider: Are your employees engaged and warm? Or disinterested and hasty? It’s important that your staff understand that any incoming call could be your legacy case. An unassuming client might still hold the potential for a claim that makes your reputation or results in a significant and meaningful case. For this reason, all calls to your office should receive prompt and genuine attention.
A friendly voice will not mask a lack of knowledge. The person answering the phone or returning a call must be able to vet potential clients effectively. If the right question never gets asked, a valuable case may slip through your fingers.
The good news is: a lack of knowledge can be overcome with the right technology. At my firm, our GrowPath intake software has patented smart questionnaires that populate additional questions based on users’ input. For example, my staff is always prompted to ask callers if they were working at the time of their car accident. If the caller answers “yes,” my staff is then prompted to ask additional questions to see if they might also have a workers’ compensation case.
We also use GrowPath’s patented BuzzwordsTM feature to notify staff to ask additional questions if they input any “trigger” words that might indicate a valuable mass tort case. For example, someone entering “hearing loss” would be prompted to ask if the caller ever served in the military to see if they might qualify as a 3M earplugs case.
For more information on how to make your intake department more client-focused and effective, check out this article I wrote on the Five Qualities of World-Class Law Firm Intake.
Step 3: Define the Relationship
In the first call with clients, your paralegals and attorneys should set the parameters of the working relationship. This is the time to establish the firm and its employees as authority figures who will direct and help the clients through every step of the legal process. Expectations on how the case and the relationship will be managed need to be defined upfront.
Your legal team should also display empathy with clients within that frame of authority. Clients come to you because they need help during a trying period of their lives. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes, and adjust your words, actions, and body language to make them as comfortable as possible with the journey they’re undertaking. Clients can sense when you’re detached. Be calm, reassuring, and supportive. Don’t forget that lawyers are referred to as counselors for a reason.
Step 4: Communicate and Be Responsive
This is not just about instant responsiveness. Set ground rules for who contacts whom, and when, and be proactive in soliciting and ensuring client comprehension. As with any relationship, clear communication makes all the difference, but you must also set boundaries and ensure that clients adhere to them.
Communicate regularly to gather key information that helps further the case and to update your clients on what you’ve been doing. Using a cutting-edge case management system allows you to organize and access information from the client quickly, and it also ensures that your team is communicating with clients on a timely and regular basis. Time-saving abilities to look for in a case management system include click-to-call, in-file texting, and Outlook email integration.
Your system should also tell you how often your firm is communicating with each client and what your timeline is for resolving each case. Invest in software that can lay out case headway through various stages, the duration of each stage, and the team member who moved it to the next stage. Tools like these (such as GrowPath’s Matter Trackers) will bring your client engagement to the next level.
Step 5: Communicate With Your Clients According to Their Preferences
Without putting too fine a point on it, you’re a dinosaur if you’re not texting. It’s not essential that you personally like or enjoy texting. You don’t even have to type your messages on a mobile device. You just need to send messages to your clients and their devices. If you refuse to text, you’re failing to cater to the preferences of the majority of your clients.
According to a recent survey by OpenMarket, three quarters of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 would choose a text-only phone over one that was voice-only. It’s a fact that many of your clients, especially but not exclusively younger ones, prefer texting to talking on the phone. Millennials like texting communication because it’s “less invasive, more personal, and makes them feel valued.”
But don’t equate less invasive with having a low success rate. The survey also found that:
- Email open rates are 20%, and SMS open rates are 98%.
- Email response rates are 6%, and SMS response rates are 45%.
- The average person takes 90 minutes to respond to an email and only 90 seconds to respond to a text message.
At my firm, we can send e-sign agreements via text so that we are able to sign clients while they’re on the phone with us – before they call our competition. It’s up to you to adjust your business model to be more client-centric. Ask up front, and then honor your clients’ communication method preferences.
Step 6: Measure and Manage Your Client Satisfaction
Go beyond a general feeling that you’re client-focused, and take a methodical approach to evaluating how client-friendly you really are. We constantly manage each client relationship, and at the end of each case, we survey our clients and ask them to rate us on a scale of 1-10 to get an objective numerical score. We then convert these scores into a Net Promoter Score® to obtain the most accurate measure of client satisfaction (i.e. 9-10 ratings receive a +1, 7-8 ratings receive a 0, and 1-6 ratings receive a -1). During the client survey, we also solicit qualitative feedback and ask our clients to provide an online review.
To succeed now and thrive in the future, law firms should focus on getting as much as possible, as quickly as possible, for their clients while managing the client experience the entire time. And your case management software can greatly assist you in these efforts.
Our GrowPath case management software can help you improve your focus on meeting and exceeding your clients’ expectations – so everyone wins. Take advantage of the special rate for PILMMA members here.
Jim Farrin is the Owner and Advisor of GrowPath, the ultimate case management software for personal injury firms. Jim is also Founder and President of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin which has recovered more than $1.2 billion in gross for over 50,000 clients over the last 20 years.