Providing quality services to clients is no longer the only requirement to strengthen your relationship with the clients. In the competitive legal services landscape, being responsive to client’s needs, keeping them informed about the status of their case, and being available to answer their questions is the bare minimum support a legal services provider should offer.
There are various other ways in which legal services providers can communicate regularly with their clients, stay on top of their minds and demonstrate their commitment to the needs of their clients. Strong client relationships can lead to repeat business, referrals, and overall growth and success. In this article, the authors explore how law firms can place client relationships at the forefront of their growth strategy and how long-lasting relationships with clients are the key to law firm growth & development.
In order to put client relationships at the forefront of your growth strategy, you must begin by knowing your clients from the lens of data and trends. Analyze what key industry sectors the clients belong to, determine their type (individuals, corporates, government entities, law firms domestic or international and determine top clients by billing value and volume of work. Find out the ratio of clients for each practice area - litigation, corporate, taxation, IPR, etc., and also determine clients from each geography/jurisdiction. This will give you a fair idea of areas and sectors that are more profitable for you, or the ones that help in building the perception of the firm (due to the volume of work handled).
From the data so collected, study trends that will give you relevant points for crafting a client-focused strategy. If most of your revenue comes from a particular practice area, you will know that you can create a better market for the offerings from that practice area or allied areas. For example, if litigation is one of the major areas of practice, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Insolvency practice could be developed. Similarly, technology, media, and entertainment work gel well with IPR practice.
This will also help you understand which of your clients may require legal assistance towards evolving areas of law like Technology Law (data privacy, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, etc.), Environmental Law (climate change, resource conservation and renewable energy, etc.), Health Law (healthcare regulation, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc.), International Law (international trade, cross-border transactions, and dispute resolution), etc.
Create focused and bespoke client retention strategies for your top clients. Create a knowledge/research team that focuses on industry sectors your clients belong to and observe trends. If there is evolving jurisprudence in a particular area of law or if there are sectors where regulatory environment is volatile, keeping your client relationships informed - send them relevant updates, conduct client feedback surveys, and appoint relationship partners for such clients.
Encourage open communication and collaboration within your firm, so that your clients feel like they are part of the team. This can help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of trust. Make sure that every member of your firm understands the importance of client relationships and is committed to providing excellent service. This could include setting clear service standards, regularly communicating with clients, and being responsive to their needs and concerns. Cultivate relationships with other professionals who can refer clients to your firm. This can help you grow your client base while also building long-term relationships.
Look for ways to add value for your clients beyond the services you provide. This could include providing access to valuable resources, offering free consultations or advice, or connecting them with other professionals or organizations that could be of assistance.
One of the most effective ways to understand your clients is to ask them questions. This will help you learn more about their needs, goals, and concerns. In addition to asking questions, it is important to listen actively to what your clients are saying. Pay attention to their body language and nonverbal cues, and make an effort to understand their perspective. Encourage the client to be open and honest with the lawyer, and make sure the client knows they can ask questions or raise concerns at any time.
Ask your clients for feedback on your services and use this information to improve and evolve your offering. This can help you stay attuned to their needs and show that you value their input. Regularly ask clients for feedback on your services, and use this information to make improvements and address any issues they may have. This shows clients that you value their opinion and are committed to meeting their needs.
Invest in good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. CRM tracks client communication and gathers information about their needs and preferences. It can help in creating reminders for follow-ups on client meetings, lead conversion, etc. Firms should coach and mentor their leaders and partners to take criticism from clients in a constructive manner and leverage the same to enhance the quality of service.
Train Partners to create a regime of regularly keeping in touch with the clients through conversations other than just the work at hand. For developing relationships with the clients and to become their trusted advisors, they have to start taking interest in clients’ businesses. This will also help them devise legal solutions keeping in mind clients’ commercial interests.
To put client relationships at the forefront of the law firm strategy, several law firms work like an extended arm of the Legal Departments of companies. Such law firms provide guidance on legal compliance and help the company understand relevant laws and regulations from business/commercial standpoints. One of the key ways to do this is to help client corporations manage legal risks, i.e., working with them to identify and mitigate legal risks faced by the company and provide guidance on the company's governance structure to ensure that the company is complying with statutory requirements of reporting and disclosures.
Law firms can bring specialized knowledge and experience to bear on complex legal issues that may be outside the expertise of the in-house legal team. Several law firms not only provide outside perspective and fresh ideas that the in-house legal team may not have considered, but also depute additional lawyers, paralegals, and other staff, to help the in-house legal team handle a high volume of work.
Show your appreciation for your clients by thanking them for their business and letting them know that you value their partnership. This could include sending personalized thank-you notes or simply expressing your gratitude in person or through email. Keep in touch with clients on a regular basis, even when you're not working on a specific project for them. This could include sending newsletters, invitations to events, or simply reaching out to check-in. This helps to build trust and strengthen the relationship. Also, with your key clients, take the time to get to know them on a personal level. This can help you understand their motivations and concerns in a deeper way.
By adopting these strategies, law firms can help to build strong, long-lasting relationships with their clients, which will be key to their growth and success. It's important to remember that client nurturing is an ongoing process, and law firms should be proactive in maintaining and strengthening their relationships with clients over time.
Bithika Anand is the Founder & CEO and Nipun K Bhatiaa is the President of Legal League Consulting.