The concept of a client-centered law practice is not new, but the rewards for creating one have never been greater.
That’s because the profession is undergoing a tectonic shift, as alternative service providers flood the market, technology smashes norms, and clients have more choices and wield more control than ever before.
Not to mention the fact that mega-companies like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have raised the bar for client service by providing 24/7 access and instant gratification.
And though building a client-centered law practice sounds easy – just put your clients first, right? – the reality is more difficult.
“This goes beyond the legal deliverable you provide,” writes Teresa Matich on the Clio Business Blog. “Being client-centered means truly putting yourself in your client’s shoes and looking at the experience of hiring a lawyer and going through a legal matter from their point of view.”
A client-centered public defender, Matich writes, will not just provide competent counsel, but will reassure the client that they’re committed to the case. A client-centered family law practice will listen to its clients, acknowledge the stress of their situations, and offer support beyond just preparing documents and resolving disputes.
“At the heart of it, being client-centered is about being empathetic towards your clients and their needs,” writes Matich. “Making small tweaks in this area can help your firm stand out and can make your day-to-day easier too.”
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How to Put Your Clients at the Center
Here are some suggestions from Matich to make your firm more client-centric.
- Consider how every important decision will affect your clients. Considering a new case management program? Repainting your waiting room? Hiring a paralegal? Ask yourself: what will this mean for my client?
- Keep it simple: “Do you send multiple forms to clients when you could be sending a single form? Are your intake forms easy to understand, and do they ask for only relevant information? How fast do you respond to client requests? Wherever you see a gap, look for an opportunity to improve the experience clients have with your firm.”
- Show empathy. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. See the case from their perspective. This will build trust and loyalty. “Your clients don’t just come to you to get a legal issue resolved. They come to you for peace of mind, reassurance, emotional support and advice…. The more empathetic you can be, the better positioned you’ll be to handle your own stress, support your client emotionally, and do your best work.”
- Give the client choices – and control. This tip comes from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of the best-seller Designing Your Life and keynote speakers at the 2018 Clio Cloud Conference. “There’s a subtle but important difference when a lawyer tells a client what to do, versus when they present them with several options, explain the consequences, and let the client make the choice: In the former scenario, the lawyer is the authoritative person at the center of the experience, while in the latter scenario, the client is at the center of the experience.”
- Keep the entire client journey in focus. Just because the case is closed doesn’t mean you can stop thinking about the client. What is your final billing process? Are your bills clear and easily understood? Are clients encouraged to contact you with questions or future problems? Do you follow-up in 90 days or one year to make sure everything is okay?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. “Communication means more than just providing updates on a client’s case: It’s about being proactive so that clients feel informed, and taking the time to ensure clients truly understand everything that is going on.”
How would you rate your firm on a client-centric scale of 1 to 10? What steps can you take to improve?
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