According to the survey conducted by Thomson Reuters Solo and Small Law Firm group, 78% of lawyers state that acquiring new business is at the top of their priority list. Too often, relationships between law firms and clients are thought of solely in terms of buzzwords. Win-win outcomes, sharing market risks, and continuing to invest in client relationships are just a few of the cliche phrases heard in the context of building business relationships.
What are some strategies for developing relationships that will convert into business or business referrals? How can law firms and lawyers establish relationships that will lead to business or commercial recommendations? This article provides ways as well as ideas that one can use right off the bat.
Why building relationships in business is important?
Relationships are everything when it comes to promoting legal services. While this may appear to be simple, the dynamics of developing relationships are far from simple. It’s one thing to know that you want to network with recruiters, clients or bankers. It’s another thing entirely to make this a reality. It is a skill honed with time and practice.
Ways to Build Business Relationships
- Communicate Online
- Respond and Reach-out
- Move from billable hours to billable milestones
- Manage your Networks
- Be Interpersonal
Humans are social creatures by nature, and we value recommendations of friends and family. We trust a friend’s referral of a restaurant. Similarly, we will believe the authenticity of a referral of a law firm or a lawyer from our own network. Online communication enables law firms to showcase their dedication to their clients through effective dialogue, laying the groundwork for client base and customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction is crucial in developing a solid client relationship built on trust. A prospective client will feel more connected to a law firm if they visit its website and see dozens of case studies and content such as articles, videos and podcasts. They’ll feel more comfortable making the judgement call to hire a lawyer or that law firm. LinkedIn is a very effective tool for building online presence among prospective clients but is grossly underutilized. One may ask clients to leave reviews on the LinkedIn account and if there are concerns raised on any of the online portals, it is essential to address these concerns graciously.
Reasonable dialogue between the lawyer and the client is considered necessary for the client to engage effectively. The key word in the preceding statement is “reasonable”. Lawyers may differ on what constitutes reasonable communication, but having multitudes of unaddressed correspondence suggests that you are not being generally available. This would mean that you are passing up on customer leads.
When clients contact a lawyer or a law firm, they are generally going through some legal challenges. The circumstances leading to the need for legal counsel could be anything from dealing with employment related issues or some sort of failure of their business. In that case, they would want immediate communication from their prospective lawyers. Would you rather wait days for someone to return your call or go to someone who respects your time?
To facilitate a seamless client onboarding process, business development professionals with even a little bit of legal knowledge, who could answer the phones and reply to emails swiftly can prove beneficial. An expert answering service is preferable, but consider your viable alternatives and also your firm’s goals.
Clients seek the assistance of attorneys to remedy business challenges. There really is value alignment when a firm provides excellent work product, meets a client’s business goals, and charges fees that are fair and in-line with the market standards.
The clients should not assess a firm’s value by fixating on the price per unit of input or the level of discount. Far too often, clients inquire about discounts before asking about rates. With this interplay, it’s easy to see why standard billing rates for law firms continue to rise. It turns into a game of jacking up the list price in order to make the buyer feel good about getting a price reduction. Assessing the value of legal assistance is hard, however, if a firm seeks benchmarks and data, it can then push these discussions. Firms, for example, could perhaps consider whether intended outcomes, timelines, milestones and expenditures were met.
As has been discussed numerous times the legal industry is completely client focused and thus when you are networking, you are selling your goodwill and yourself. Thus, it is very important that you maintain the optics well. Often lawyers get their clients through word of mouth or in-person contacts. In-person events are limited or non-existent in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult for lawyers to build a client base. This is true for both young lawyers and lawyers looking to expand or diversify their practice. It can be difficult to shift qualified leads and network online, but it is crucial for lawyers looking to build a book in the digital age. A few networking practices that will help one build a client base, whether online or in person are client referral programs, legal networks (such as Interlegal), content creation, virtual happy hours, etc.
This is the exciting one! What great way to show your firm’s gratitude towards its clients than with small gifts delivered at key moments? A token of gratitude will demonstrate your worth to clients. A considerate gift is preferable to a costly one. You don’t want to go overboard to show your client you care. With your gift, your firm could include a handwritten note or a personal message. Personalized gifts can boost customer loyalty and retention by making your client feel appreciated.
Interlegal is a community of lawyers that can help you develop business relationships and manage your network. Conferences, workshops and events are conducted from time to time allowing for networking opportunities not just locally but also globally.
The idea of strengthening client relationships seems to be so simple – of course, law firms should respond quickly and network. However, in the hustle and bustle that law firms are part of, these notions can get lost. It is to ensure that one stays at top of their game, that law firms should become part of communities such as Interlegal. If you are a new law firm and need mentorship in developing or managing these strategies, these networks with such similar firms could prove very valuable. Networks are basically a community that collaborates with lawyers and law firms, but more importantly, it collaborates with people.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I expand my network globally as a law firm?
- Is there an indicative timeline within which the replies should be sent to clients to ensure solid relationships?
- Considering that law is a regulated profession, are there laws restricting advertisement?
- Can I advertise my client base on the website of my law firm?
Global collaboration can be increased by joining communities like Interlegal which is comprised of stellar law firms across various jurisdictions.
Through market practices, it has been observed that law firms and companies responding to clients within 24 hours of the emails and queries have the best chance of converting prospective clients.
Yes. Some jurisdictions like India have a general prohibition on advertising and soliciting. However, these prohibitions are not universal and may not apply to your jurisdiction.
Advertisement of client base on law firm on websites is regulated by domestic regulations and you will have to check with the policies from your jurisdiction.