The skills required to run a law firm are not something law schools have traditionally been good at bestowing upon their students. Attorneys leave law school legal experts, but often have to learn how to run a business on their own.
After years of trial and error, research, and mentoring, law firm owners can become successful business owners. Part of that process for many attorneys is realizing that, contrary to popular perception, lawyers are just as much customer service professionals as legal experts.
Focusing just on incoming leads and outgoing legal work will get you far, but the client experience is an oft-neglected part of a successful law firm. In this blog, we’ll be discussing the client experience, talking about why it’s so important to a firm’s success, and giving a few tips on how to improve it.
The Three Parts Of The Client Experience
The client experience is everything a client undergoes while a firm is working on their case. There’s plenty of other names for it; some like to call it a client journey, for example. We think client experience gets the idea across plainly: it’s customer service. You can break it down into three areas: the first impression, what happens during a case, and the end of a case.
The first impression describes a clients’ experience going from potential client to actually hiring a firm. This encompasses everything from their first phone call to signing a representation agreement. This part of the client experience is the least varied; hiring a firm is usually pretty similar from firm to firm.
During a case, the client experience varies widely, depending on the practice area and the type of case. Some cases require showing up to court; others require an endless series of depositions before settling. This is the stage where attorneys guide their clients through the legal process. It’s what clients hire lawyers to do!
Finally, there are actually some misconceptions about the end of the case. Attorneys believe the outcome of the case has a huge bearing on how a client feels, but clients don’t seem to feel that way.
According to a survey of studies conducted by Georgia State University, over half of clients identified the major cause of dissatisfaction as a failure to keep them adequately informed.
Therefore, It’s possible to turn a bad outcome into a positive recollection, as long as the process itself was well managed.
Just How Important Is Your Client Experience?
Being an attorney has never been just about the legal work. As we mentioned above, attorneys are guides to a legal process most people barely understand until they’re forced to engage with it. A lot of legal consumers are scared, anxious, nervous, or downright lost when they seek legal help. It’s an attorney’s job to mitigate those feelings so they can get back to their day-to-day, confident in the help they’re receiving.
It’s clear that, as an industry, the legal world could stand to invest more in client satisfaction.
In 2018, Clio’s Legal Trends Report found that law firms have customer satisfaction scores analogous to airlines, banks, and credit card companies, three of the boogeymen of the American consumer experience.
At the end of the day, clients want to feel comfortable with the fact that their attorney, specifically, is the one handling their sensitive legal issues. That means they expect competency and professionalism, yes, but also an environment that doesn’t make them feel lost.
Increasingly, clients want to be involved in the process, as well. Clients have always wanted to be kept in the loop, but the internet has made it easy to expect more from your legal counsel. Nowadays, dissatisfied clients can easily do their own research, possibly coming away with misguided expectations. Or worse, they can easily find another attorney.
Yes, improving your client experience will be good for your firm. You’ll retain more clients and get better reviews, which will in turn attract more clients. But improving your client experience should be a goal in its own right. Making sure your clients have the best possible time while you’re working on their case is just good business.
Three Ways To Improve Your Client Experience
Below, we’ll discuss three areas in which you can improve your client experience: education, communication, and initial contact. You’re likely to notice a theme among the three: clients really want to keep in touch.
Studies have shown that the average attorney spends 1.1 hours a day talking to clients on the phone.
But the ever-changing legal landscape brings with it some benefits: while clients still prefer to talk on the phone and in person, more and more are beginning to accept other forms of communication. Video conferencing, emailing, and texting are becoming more popular among clients during a legal matter.
In a similar way, modern technological tools can help you enhance your client experience without sacrificing too much in the way of time or overhead. We’ll be discussing one such tool at the end of this blog!
Educate Your Clients
Imagine going to the hospital and having them keep you without explaining what’s wrong. Terrifying, right? While not nearly as dramatic, your clients would appreciate you explaining what’s going on with their case in much the same way you might want a doctor to explain why you’re sick. Making sure your clients aren’t left in the dark during their case will markedly improve their experience with your firm.
The first thing you should do once a client hires you is establish expectations. Attorneys aren’t miracle workers, and oftentimes it’s the shock of an unfavorable turnout to a case that stings more than the actual outcome. If your clients expect miracles, they’re not going to like it when you can’t deliver. Instead, establishing realistic expectations will ensure that they always know where they’re headed.
Next, you can explain the process they’re about to go through. You don’t have to get into too many specifics, but covering the general trajectory of cases of the type that client has brought to you can help establish norms. Clients who know what’s going to happen next won’t have to wait anxiously in the dark for information about their case.
Finally, you should explain your process when it comes to handling your clients’ cases. Being a client isn’t always a passive role; often, you’ll need information or documentation from them throughout the process. Establishing what is expected or required on the client side of things will help make them feel like they’re involved in the process.
In addition, knowing how you handle the case leaves clients less in the dark than simply going off to do the work. We’re not advising a constant play-by-play; most of this education happens up front, before the work even begins. Just keep in mind that keeping your clients informed will keep them happy.
Stay In Constant Communication
While it has always been important to keep your clients in the loop, it is now more important than ever. Half a century ago, it would have been considered rude to call your lawyer outside business hours, or to pepper them with questions about what comes next. Back then it could have been seen as a lack of trust; nowadays it’s just par for the course.
People call their attorneys at all hours with questions, concerns, or requests for updates, as you no doubt know.
According to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, 68 percent of clients want to be able to communicate outside of regular business hours and on weekends.
The ever-accelerating delivery speed of service in the on-demand era of the internet has certainly taken its toll; if your client has a question, they want an answer immediately because that’s how a lot of the other services they pay for work.
The legal world has, of course, adapted.
In that same report, Clio’s metrics found that 86 percent of attorneys work outside normal working hours, and 73 percent work outside normal business days.
Luckily, as we mentioned before, with the increasing acceptance of alternative ways of keeping in touch and some help from legal tech, you should be able to keep your clients abreast of their case without sacrificing too much of your time.
Never Miss A Call
Finally, to make your client experience as good as it can get from beginning to end, you need to make sure you’re prioritizing clients as soon as you can. For most attorneys, that means answering the phone every time they call.
Whether it’s existing clients calling for an update or new leads looking for legal counsel, you need to be available to your clients as often as possible. New leads, of course, are a priority for every business. But as we established above, existing clients are calling at all hours of the day; you need to be ready to answer. Nothing makes a client feel more valued than having their concerns handled immediately.
And, as clients rely more and more on online reviews and search engines to find their preferred representation, making sure you always answer a client’s call has never been more important than ever. Before the internet, people relied on referrals to find attorneys. Now, another attorney is always only a Google search and a phone call away.
Improve Your Client Experience Without Sacrificing your Health
Here’s the problem: improving your client experience takes a lot of work and time. You’ll have to put in more hours at work, and perhaps even sacrifice your personal time, especially if you’re committed to always being available to client calls. Combining long hours with extended availability is a sure recipe for burnout.
But how do you make sure you’re always available to clients while maintaining a healthy work/life balance? Well, with a team of highly-trained virtual receptionists for lawyers, you can have it all. Answering Legal’s team, specifically, will enable you to improve your client experience at every point along the journey while actually saving you time for you to use as you please.
For existing clients, our virtual receptionists for lawyers can execute transfers if there’s urgent business, or else take a message. Messages are sent to the attorney in question immediately after every call via text, email, or CRM. You’ll always be able to follow up whenever you’re next available. For more information on our message taking service, click here.
For new clients, we can also transfer immediately if attorneys want to be able to close the deal immediately. But if not, our virtual receptionists for lawyers can perform a custom legal intake to secure a new lead’s business. We can even integrate with your favorite legal software, allowing you to, for example, automatically input the information our virtual receptionists for lawyers gather in legal intake directly into a new client file on your CRM. If that sounds interesting, click here to learn more!
With Answering Legal’s team of virtual receptionists for lawyers, you’ll be able to improve the experience of every client that hires you without sacrificing the quality of your work or your personal time. In fact, with phone calls off your hands and our integrations automating tasks like data entry, you might even save time, all while making your clients happier.
Improve your client experience without sacrificing your personal life. Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up for our service their first 400 minutes free.