Do your earnings justify the hours you work? Especially in this economy, the answer I hear from the vast majority of attorneys is a resounding “No!” Particularly if you’re a law firm owner — there’s just too much to do on a daily basis, and inconsistency in revenues is the order of the day.
We learned about the law while we were in law school, but consider everything else that’s required just to keep a law firm afloat. In addition to doing the legal work, there’s a mountain of phone calls and e-mails to return, new technology to figure out, questions from employees to answer, human resources issues to deal with, plus the task of staying on top of developments in the law. I don’t know about you, but they didn’t teach me all this stuff in law school.
Then there’s the fact that, for many practitioners, revenues are becoming more and more inconsistent. Thanks to online sites and fill-in-the-blank forms, legal services are becoming commoditized like never before. This is leading clients away from seeking sound legal advice and toward do-it-yourself solutions.
The response that most lawyers have to this situation is to work longer, harder hours just to try to keep up. The result is diminishing returns when it comes to earnings, leading some of us to wonder if it’s all worth it.
Ready for a surprise? We’ve found that clients don’t care all that much about technical proficiency — they assume that if you’ve got a law degree, you know what you’re doing. What draws clients to a lawyer — and what keeps them loyal — is that they’ve found a trusted advisor who doesn’t just have legal expertise, but who cultivates relationships and consistently delivers on promises.
One of the things you need to do to reach a point where you’re no longer spinning your wheels, is to adopt a relationship-building system for your practice. This means not only remaining in contact with your clients, but making sure that every contact that a client or prospective client has with your firm, exceeds their expectations. From the first phone contact with your receptionist, to what they see when they first set foot in your lobby, to whether or not their phone calls are returned promptly — everything about your firm should be crafted to exceed your clients’ expectations.
- Every employee needs to understand exactly how each client is greeted, how the phone is answered, how documents are drafted and sent to the client for review, and what happens at document signings. Clear, consistent expectations for these things will lead to consistently excellent client experiences.
- You need a plan for communicating with each client six to twelve times each year. This can be in the form of a blog, newsletters, seminars, or client appreciation events, to name a few.
- You need a system for keeping track of every contact that a client has with anyone in your firm — from the receptionist, to a paralegal, to an attorney.
This may sound like just more extra work, but if you have a system in place for building relationships, and the system is understood and implemented by everyone in your firm, then the guesswork disappears. Like clockwork, every contact a client or prospective client has with your firm will be one that’s geared toward building a long-term, trusted relationship. This, in turn, will lead to less work for you, as well as greater income for your firm.
This is a topic we’ve talked a lot about in “The E-Myth Attorney” and we have also planned on discussing it on a teleseminar coming up on August 10th, let us know if you want registration information for the call (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll be happy to get the information to you.
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Road, Suite 240
San Diego, CA 92124