Excellent client service should be at the core of what law firms do. It’s what clients, in an increasingly competitive legal services market, have come to expect and demand. It’s how all “business development” conversations should start.
Consider your clients as partners. Listen to them. Learn everything about them. Learn from them. This extends to everyone at the firm. Every touchpoint a client has at you firm must feel connected – that everyone is on the same page regarding their needs. How do you accomplish this? By building first rate client service teams.
What are Law Firm Client Teams?
Client service teams work to gain a deep understanding of the client so the firm is proactive and not only reactive about issues and problems that surface. They communicate and get together regularly to explore the needs and interests of the firm’s clients. They’re partners with the client. Below, are a few examples of the types and composition of teams you can create in your firm to provide a high level of service that results in loyal clients.
Client Team Composition
All teams don’t look alike. If you have a solo practice, you’re it. Or, you and your paralegal and administrative assistant. But as you grow, you’ll need to identify partners, associates, department leaders, and other staff members to include on your client service teams. As detailed below, teams are involved with training, continuing education, social media, blogging, etc. Firms should be creative when forming teams to suit the needs of their particular clients.
Technology and Training
Technology is a differentiator for law firms when it comes to delivering legal services and excelling at servicing clients. For instance, firms that use online practice management systems may offer clients a portal for better communication and document handling, along with online billing, invoicing, and convenient payment options. Some larger firms may integrate certain processes of their business clients into their own IT systems or build applications to service them. But that’s not enough. You need to provide ongoing training to make sure clients are using the tools to their maximum benefit.
Team: Involve the library (librarians excel at training and teaching – use them!), IT, and paralegal departments. Also, designated associates and partners.
Alternative Pricing Models
Law firms that offer hourly billing only will not succeed. Some firms employ Pricing Managers (sometimes called Analyst or Director) to head up Strategic Pricing & Analysis teams responsible for developing, evaluating, and implementing alternative pricing models. This is fast becoming the standard in Big Law and smaller firms are hopping aboard the Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA) train and there’s no turning back. Clients are demanding options and firms must provide them.
Team: Include members of the firm’s executive committee, partners, and Accounting department.
When I worked in Big Law as a library director, we not only took over the continuing legal education responsibility of attorneys at the firm, but extended that service to include putting on accredited live events and videos for our clients. It’s not an insignificant administrative effort, but well worth it to demonstrate the level of commitment to your clients – your partners in business. Tap a few of the in-house counsel of your corporate clients to present giving them an opportunity to build their own individual brand and the company’s. They’ll love you for it.
Team: Involve the library, professional development, paralegal, and marketing departments. Also, designated associates and partners.
Social Media Outreach
Social media is no longer a disruption in the industry. It’s the not-so-new normal. If you’re not on it, you’re behind the curve.
One of the ways clients search for and find help is via social media. It’s a given that firms must have a presence there. Choose around three platforms and concentrate your efforts. Start with Twitter and LinkedIn.
Social media can also be used to add value to existing clients. Of course, firms can’t offer advice to clients or use it the same way a telecommunications company or others would, but it’s a way to put your name out there, offer value, engage, and create and nurture relationships.
Team: Involve the Marketing department. Representatives from other departments such as Records, Human Resources, IT, and business development, can occasionally weigh in. Also, designated associates.
Blogging is more than just putting content out there every week. It’s a conversation. A conversation with current and prospective clients, colleagues and industry leaders (See: Why Do You Blog? 23 Lawyers Weigh In). Blog posts address issues across the spectrum: legal, business, technology, marketing, etc. Create a monthly newsletter for your clients and include the blog posts. Consider naming the blog something besides your firm’s name and use that as the newsletter title.
Team: The Marketing department along with designated associates and partners can drive this effort but a wide swath of participants from all departments can and should contribute.
Guides, White Papers, and E-Books
This requires a bit more effort but not as much as you may think. Repurpose blog posts and practice area newsletters into useful content. Spend a few dollars to get it beautifully designed and formatted and put it on a landing page with a sign-up form. Add those email submissions to your monthly blog newsletter outreach.
Team: The Marketing department heads this up. Librarians can help with the writing and editing with partners and associates contributing much of the content. The IT department and other tech-savvy members of the firm can contribute technology-related chapters.
These are just a few of the efforts that law firm client service teams can undertake. Listen to your clients, put out surveys, and be creative with your outreach. The result will be loyal clients.
Finally, we’ve identified traditional law firm departments in this post for client service collaboration, but you may discover after going through the exercises, that adding another department devoted solely to client outreach and success makes sense. One that involves the entire firm and creates a legacy of excellent client service by establishing partnerships with clients and building impactful, diverse, collaborative teams to nurture relationships.