Marketing can be exhausting work. Ensuring that all the leads you generate are captured is no walk in the park either. But, once you win over the client, you’ll finally be able to turn your full attention to practicing the law, right?
While we wish this were true, there’s still a lot you need to worry about when managing current clients, which we’ll cover in the third and final piece of our law practice management series.
If you missed out on the first two parts of this series, you’ll want to catch up before moving forward:
- Read “Where Things Go Wrong With Marketing” here
- Read “Where Things Go Wrong With Capturing Leads” here
As a service that works closely with law offices, we see attorneys make critical client management mistakes all the time. After all the effort you put into getting to this point with a client, you won’t want to lose them now. Here are six mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Making Promises You Can’t Keep
Promising your clients the moon and the stars can be tempting, as it can help you win over their favor early on in your relationship. But, building up sky high expectations can be dangerous. For one, you’ll be placing an extremely high level of pressure on yourself, something that if done enough can leave you feeling overstressed and burnt out.
Even if you’re cool under pressure and great at your job, there can always be unforeseen circumstances that keep you from delivering outstanding results to your clients. Even if you do everything right, and deliver the best outcome possible given the situation, clients may still be upset if you don’t reach that high bar you initially set for them. The end result could be a negative online review that puts an unfortunate stain on your firm’s reputation, or a missed opportunity to represent a client again.
It may sound a bit uninspired, but sometimes under promising and over delivering is your best route to follow. When first meeting with new clients, lay out realistic expectations, and have your promises relate to things you have complete control over. For example, promise to do everything in your power to generate a positive outcome, rather than guaranteeing a certain result.
Spending Too Much Time On The Wrong Clients
For anyone running a business, letting a potential income opportunity slip away feels just wrong. But, sometimes you may need to lose a battle to ultimately win the war. Whether a client is overly difficult, takes up to much of your time, or has a case that just isn’t a great fit for you firm, you need to recognize that early on in the relationship and not wait to take action.
You of course won’t be able to kick every slightly annoying client to the curb, as some prima donnas and exhausting individuals will present too big a payday to ignore. But, an analysis of which clients are worth your time and which aren’t, should constantly be taking place. Having a well-thought-out legal intake process in place from the start can help you gather important information about new customers, and give you a strong indication from the start of whether a client is worth your time.
Remember, the weeks you spend on a client that brings you nothing but aggravation, could be better spent a client that ends up having a real relationship with your firm. Don’t be afraid to rip off that band aid! Ending client relationships should always be done with the utmost professionalism, and in cases where it is appropriate, refer them to another attorney that might be a better fit for their needs. You never know when that attorney might return the favor and give you a great client.
Failing To Learn About Your Client
For busy lawyers, efficiency is always a top goal. Because of this, attorneys are often only interested in gathering the meat and potatoes details about a new client and their case, rather than sitting down and really learning about who the person they’re representing really is and what they’ve been through.
A recent FindLaw article had this advice for improving client relationships:
“Have your client write you a letter about the ‘story of my life.’ The client certainly feels better and gets a real opportunity to tell you all about his or her history. The client can write this while away from your office and spend some time gathering facts and information. It is simply amazing what you will learn about your client. I have never failed to obtain at least one little ‘nugget’ that will help me later in the case.”
By taking just a few extra minutes to learn about your clients life history, rather than just their case history, you’re accomplishing two important things. 1) You’re showing right away that you actually care about your clients as people, something that should play in your favor, when clients are evaluating your handling of their case. 2) You’re ensuring that you’re fully prepared to build a client’s case, and that very little will surprise you as the case progresses.
Keeping Your Client Uninformed
Many of today’s consumers have grown up or at least spent a good portion of their life in the digital age, a time period where vast information is available to them at the click of a few buttons. So the “trust me, I’m your lawyer approach” doesn’t play so well with clients these days. The people you’re representing are going to want to information about how their case is progressing and what actions are being taken every step of the way.
We’re sure most lawyers out there can be trusted to handle a case without frequent check-ins from their clients. But, what attorneys must remember is that most clients aren’t asking questions because they don’t trust you, but because they’re scared.
The customers you’re serving likely came to you because they’re going through a time of crisis or uncertainty. So rather than waiting for clients to ask you what’s happening, shoot them a short message or engage in a quick phone call. Give them a brief update on what you’re currently working on, and what’s next, even if it’s nothing significant. And don’t just assume something will be too complicated for a non-lawyer to digest. Take a few minutes to make sure your clients have at least a basic understanding of what’s happening.
Being Hard To Get In Touch With
We won’t sit here and pretend that lawyers have the time to be answering phone calls all day. We know you’re probably more often overwhelmed than bored. But, your clients won’t be looking for excuses, they’ll be looking for answers. Frequently missing calls and taking forever to return calls, can result in clients beginning to question your work ethic and commitment to their case.
In the previous post in this series, we discussed how Answering Legal, a 24/7 phone answering service that exclusively serves lawyers, could be a highly useful tool for handling new clients. Well it also can be quite valuable for staying in touch with current clients. Anytime you’re unable to answer a call, a trained live receptionist from Answering Legal will pick up on your behalf. They’ll then give your customer a proper greeting, take a message, and let them know when they should expect to hear back from you. Providing a live caring voice, rather than just some pre-recorded message, will help you make a much better impression on clients.
When out and about, Answering Legal can ensure you never miss out on a crucial call. All customer messages will be forwarded to you via email and/or text message, allowing you to monitor client concerns, an effectively prioritize who needs attention now, and who you can reach out to later.
Not Preparing Clients For Appearances
You never want to treat a client like a child, but sometimes you will need to give them some “parental-like guidance” when getting them ready for public appearances. The clients you represent will often be under a lot of stress, which can make their decision making a bit hazy. So it will be your job to frequently check in with them, give them clear cut instructions, and make sure they actually follow through on those instructions.
A few more helpful tips from the FindLaw article we referenced earlier:
- “Never tell your client to meet you in court at 9:00. Always tell them to be there at 8:00 because they will inevitably be an hour late and will thus show up on time!”
- “If the client has to bring something to court, have them leave it by the front door so they will bring it in the morning.”
- “Tell your client what to wear to court and have them lay it out the night before.”
- “Tell the clients not to bring: cell phones, pagers, children, or Bibles.”
- “Warn your clients that they are subject to urine tests when they go to court.”
Much of the above advice really does sound like something a parent would tell a teenager, but in many cases will be necessary to communicate towards your client, to ensure that the court appearances you put so much work into actually go well.