Client Retention: Tips for Lawyers

Client retention is crucial for lawyers. You may feel as a lawyer that the only criteria on which you are evaluated by your clients, is your legal expertise. Well, this is definitely not the case. Lawyers often fail to recognise the need to build a strong rapport with their clients. There also appears to be an absence of managing information back to the key stakeholders, their clients. People often feel you must stay as far away from lawyers as you can, as the perception is that they only care about their own pocket and fail to serve the best interests of their clients.

Let me share some real life cases illustrating each of these points.

Case 1:

A lawyer from a highly reputable, large firm of lawyers meets the wife of a client for the first time. He does not even greet her nor introduce himself. She takes the initiative to do so. When she spoke to her husband about it afterwards, her husband responded that this lawyer is just not people orientated. As you can imagine this did not sit well with her. Needless to say she perceived the lawyer as arrogant and questioned whether she could even trust him. She expected the lawyer to behave in a professional and courteous manner. In her view he appeared disinterested in her during very difficult legal negotiations.

It is crucial as a lawyer to “read” your client. In this case the lawyer could have engaged her about her expectations, the role she was to play in the meetings or how she saw the situation. He could have sketched where he and his client were in the legal proceedings. Due to his clinical and business-like stance, there was some unnecessary and avoidable tension. It was his role to make his client and his wife feel comfortable in the meeting. He needed to engage her during the discussion, call her by her name and show a sincere  interest in her presence. This would have made her feel that her presence was valued. Without having done this it could affect his client retention in this case.

Case 2:

Lawyers who are in private practice often neglect managing information back to their clients. This is so much more than just forwarding documentation to a client. Managing information is about managing the legal process back to the client in a proactive manner. This will entail keeping the client informed timeously of what the next step could be in the process.

As legal matters often entail a lengthy process, there will be weeks’ of silence, leaving the client wondering if anything is happening. Often it is the client who ends up following up with lawyer. Should this become a pattern in the interactions, the client could start to become frustrated and possibly even doubt the competence of the lawyer! This will begin to affect the relationship negatively between the two parties.

Involve your personal assistant to go back often to the client keeping them informed of the status quo in the process and progress on the case. Even if there is little actual progress, keep the client informed: have documents been sent to another party, are you awaiting their response, when do you plan to follow up if there is a lack of progress, etc. The relationship with the client needs to be managed proactively for the client to maintain trust in you.

Case 3:

A client discovered that her father’s secretary forged his signature on a codicil to his will, leaving one of his properties to the secretary. After months of negotiating with lawyers, the client eventually asked her lawyers if the case could not be referred for arbitration. They agreed. When she confronted them on why they had not suggested it earlier and that they were prolonging the proceedings unnecessarily, they admitted it. They reimbursed her part of the fees. The client lost respect for the lawyers which clearly affected their client retention.

How often do you hear stories of a lawyer just continuing with a long drawn out legal process? Many clients would prefer it if you reached a stage of being open and honest with them. If you feel pursuing the legal route is too costly or the chances of a good outcome are remote, talk to the client about this.  You can discuss with them how you see matters and the possible outcomes. You could then make various recommendations for the client to consider. It is very disheartening to clients that there appears to be little, if no justice in the legal process. The perception is that the only party who wins is the lawyers and it is best to avoid them and the legal system at all costs.

Business coaching would definitely benefit you in building greater customer loyalty. So if you are keen to distinguish yourself as being above average and change perceptions about your profession, focus on: building rapport with clients, proactively managing information back to your clients and demonstrating that you have their best interests at heart.


Posted in Client retention, Lawyers.