4 Simple Client Retention Strategies for Law Firms
By Jared Correia
Earning your clients’ trust is difficult enough. The more time and resources you have to spend marketing yourself to earn business, the less time and resources you have to tend to your existing clients — that’s where client retention comes in.
Spending more time managing the clients you already have pays off when you retain their business. Happy clients are more likely to stick around and hire you for future work. They may even refer you to others in their network.
This can be a huge boon for your firm, especially when a particular client is well-established in a network or industry that aligns closely with your area of practice.
Take, for example, Renee Thompson, a mediator and civil litigator working from Ocala, Florida, where she focuses on mediation, litigation, and equine law. When it comes to practicing equine law, working with the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar has helped her make connections that align with a very specific area of practice.
Finding the right client is a skill in itself, but it also begs the question: What factors into earning yourself a happy client — and reaping the rewards of better client retention?
Do great work
To earn your client’s satisfaction, your substantive work product needs to be terrific — terrific enough, even, to delight your clients, regardless of outcome. Of course, it’s even better if you can get your client her hoped-for result.
In a highly competitive legal marketplace, populated by hungry rivals and smart consumers, substandard work just won’t cut it. But, in some cases, a client’s ideal outcomes aren’t always possible, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, protect yourself from a situation where you’re doing good work but not getting the preferred result by following our next step.
Plan for negative outcomes
In addition to achieving those good results, you need to be able to withstand bad, or unexpected, results. This starts with an honest conversation about the nature of legal work (you can’t win every time) coupled with an open discussion on the merits of the particular case (every claim has specific strengths and weaknesses).
It’s one thing to have a client sign off on the fact that you can’t guarantee results; it’s another thing entirely to communicate that idea in light of their specific claim.
It’s a tightrope to walk, certainly. But, the better you can prepare your client for a potentially adverse result, the easier it will be to manage, should one arise.
And, if you win, well, you look even better than you would have otherwise.
Maintain timely communications
Hate it when your kid/spouse doesn’t tell you when they are coming home? Multiply this by a factor of ten, and that’s how much clients hate it when their lawyers don’t stay in touch.
Even if you’re juggling 250 cases, each of those cases is of primary importance to each individual client. You have to convince each client that you feel the same way about their case as they do — and contacting them only when you have to is not enough to communicate your passion.
Customer service is not the same as customer maintenance.
If you want your clients to feel like you care about them, you’ll call just to check in. A good rule of thumb is to call all of your active clients every six weeks, even if nothing in particular is going on. When you express an interest in your client’s daughter’s softball team, your client is far more likely to express an interest in referring you to a friend.
Don’t worry if remembering personal details isn’t one of your strengths — use a case management system like Clio to make personalized notes about your clients and to schedule follow-up calls (you can even do this automatically with Clio’s Task Lists).
When something important comes up concerning a case, share the information as soon as it becomes available. Also, schedule a time to talk about what the news means in the broader context of the case. Remember that your clients are laypersons, and that a relative non-issue for a lawyer can spark serious concern for a client.
Scheduling notifications and taking advantage of client portals, like Clio Connect, within case management software are great ways to effectively relay information to clients.
Be a problem solver
Certainly, you’ll want your clients bringing you the sorts of legal problems that you build your business on. But, if you can get your clients to come to you for any legal needs, (or even if they’re looking for an accountant, butcher, baker, or candlestick-maker … ) the more referrals you can pass out — the more likely those lawyers in other practice areas and ancillary professionals will be to send referrals back to you.
Savvy lawyers become personal clearinghouses for all of their clients’ problems.
Happy clients make for happy lawyers
Happy clients have family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who will inevitably require legal services, and if you’ve made a good enough impression, there’s a good chance your name will come up — regardless of whether your expertise aligns with their actual issues. If you’re good enough, and likeable enough, you can become your clients’ go-to professional resource.
The lifetime value of these relationships are often more than enough to sustain a successful career.
Keeping clients happy is key for your law firm’s success. Learn more by downloading our free guide, “Unleashing the Power of Referrals,” authored by Jared Correia, Esq, CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting.
About Jared D. Correia, Esq
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional, and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column, Managing for Attorney at Work and a forthcoming advice column for Lawyerist. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers. He is the host of the Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School, and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson; and, he tries to sneak Rolos when no one is looking.