Lawyers are trained to be focused, pragmatic, rational professionals. For many lawyers, then, the measure of success in client service is how well they produce focused, pragmatic, and rational results in their clients’ legal matters. Yet the best legal practices recognize that providing outstanding legal services is only half the battle. These law firms and legal departments also understand that building strong client relationships strengthens their own practice – and also leads to better legal performance.
To improve client relationships and build a better legal practice, consider the following tips:
- Put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Very few clients enjoy talking to their attorney. Often, if they’re darkening the legal department’s doorway, it’s because something has gone wrong – or is about to go wrong. Tensions may run high, and anxiety, confusion, and anger may erupt.With so much stress in the air, it’s not surprising that many lawyers prefer to keep their heads down and plow through the legal details. By attempting to understand your client’s point of view, however, your department builds a bond of trust that encourages clients to come to you well before problems (and tensions) arise. Even when it simply means letting them vent, take the time to talk to clients about their side of the problem, as well as their legal needs.
- Imagine a larger context.
Clients aren’t just walking legal problems – but law firms and legal departments that only address legal problems start to see clients in this way. Use the time you spend connecting with clients to contextualize a client’s problems. When presenting new information, recommendations, or proposed solutions, think not just about the legal context, but also about the needs of the individual clients to whom you are presenting the information. What do they need to hear? What will help them run their own departments better and avoid similar problems in the future? How do you demonstrate the firm’s or department’s value in this situation as a way to enhance the overall value of the solution?
- Put service first.
Every lawyer would love to work with clients who fit neatly into a workday’s time slots, but every lawyer also knows that clients simply don’t work this way. See your clients’ messy humanity as an opportunity, not an obstacle, by putting service first. Start conversations by setting expectations about communication, feedback, and meetings, and then stick to them: return calls in the time window promised, invite clients to scheduled legal team meetings, and provide feedback on a pre-agreed, timely schedule. Keep the client in the loop to reassure the client’s fears, stay up-to-date on developments, and avoid costly mistakes made by clients who simply don’t know better.
At Assigned Counsel, our experienced recruiters can help you find the people you need to build and maintain strong client relationships. Contact us today to learn more.