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A client isn't necessarily looking for the best rate; they're looking for the best value. What quality of service will they receive in return for what they’re paying your firm? How does your firm set itself apart from the competition through a combination of expertise and technology that is a unique benefit to your clients?
Unfortunately, clients have little context and few reliable tools to help judge the quality of one firm over another. That's why your firm’s communication will play a key role in a client’s decision to work with you — but only if you communicate value effectively!
Client Experience and Expectations
One way to start off on the right foot with a prospect or new client is to set expectations for what it’s like to work with your firm.
Do you have an automated intake form that makes getting started easier? Will it only take 10 minutes and save everyone having to schedule a meeting in-person? If you haven’t quite got this process in place, it might be something to add to your firm’s to-do list.
Does your firm accept electronic payments rather than relying on snail mail and paper checks? The value there is that your clients don’t have to take time out of their day to drop something off to you. If your firm’s processes take seconds instead of hours, that’s real value to your clients. Electronic signatures on documents are another example of technology that increases convenience for your clients, and helps get work done faster.
These types of solutions should be part of your firm’s messaging. Everyone feels more comfortable if they know what to expect in a new business relationship, and they’ll appreciate that you’ve been thoughtful in your approach to service delivery. Once your prospective clients know that you’ve embraced service-oriented technology, it removes the initial barrier of wondering how much work they’ll have to do. If they know you’re easy to work with, they’re much more likely to choose you over someone else who may have a less convenient process.
Shrinking Their Bill
Another place where you can demonstrate value is a client’s bill.
Imagine the apprehension a client must feel around their first bill. Head off that issue before it arises with clear messaging about your firm’s processes.
If you bill by the hour, tell your clients that they are getting unique value from your firm thanks to the technology and processes that help you work efficiently and deliver high-quality results in less time than other firms. Even if you charge more per hour than someone else, you will be charging them less because you will spend less time billing for rote tasks.
This is a reassuring message for clients. They’ve heard horror stories of lawyers drafting everything by hand and charging for every second of it. Let them know why that’s not the case with your firm. They’ll feel more comfortable paying your rate when they know you’re working efficiently on their behalf.
For flat-fee agreements, you can still explain the value of tech-enabled speed and accuracy. Your clients won’t need to wait two weeks for something to show up just so they can sign it and then wait another few weeks. Clients will even make the case for you by asking “Isn’t it all over email these days?” And you can respond with a strong affirmative that they can receive documents electronically and sign them from their phone, if that’s what they prefer.
Communication is Key
One thing you shouldn’t forget: Be sure to explain your firm’s communication policies early in your relationship with a new client or prospect. And live up to the expectations you set.
One common complaint from the general public (which is backed up by research in Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report) is that lawyers often don’t return calls, or demonstrate other bad communication behaviors.
There are ways legal technology can support best-in-class client communications. For example, consider enabling automation so that when you change the status of your client’s case, they automatically receive an email update. Clients will not only bug you less for updates, they’ll feel like you are in constant communication with them. The perceived value of your services increases as a result. It makes the whole process seem more human, despite the fact that we often associate automation with being less human.
You might not have time to build out the automation yourself, but you might consider hiring IT support for a project to set up the necessary systems. With good tools, you can use merge fields so the email is personalized to them with specific case information, relevant jurisdictions, court addresses, and other key information. Then it feels like you hand wrote that email and are communicating directly. If clients know that they will receive constant updates on their case, they’ll feel confident choosing your firm over another.
If you’ve invested in improving your firm’s productivity with technology and efficient internal processes, then you should make sure those are part of your firm’s story to clients and prospects. The investments you’ve made are increasing the value your firm delivers. But your clients can’t appreciate that, if they don’t know what sets your firm apart.
Delivering on the promise of quality work and frequent communication will prove your value and help you win new business and retain current clients.