In a previous post I talked about the state of the economy and its effect on the legal services industry, particularly job losses for large firm attorneys. But elder law attorneys are suffering a double-whammy. Not only is the recession having an impact, there’s also competition from online services offering cut-rate, do-it-yourself wills and trusts.
According to a recent ElderLawAnswers survey, elder law attorneys have been taking drastic measures to keep their firms afloat. Lawyers have been cutting bonuses and salaries and laying off support staff, with some even finding it necessary to let go of associates.
Others are shifting or expanding the focus of their practice according to the needs of their clients, with estate administration, guardianship and conservatorship, and crisis Medicaid planning being top choices.
Aside from cutting costs, you need to keep the clients you have and bring in new clients. What else can be done to make sure your firm does not buckle under the financial stress?
- Keep focused on your clients. Your existing clients are an important source of revenue and they’re your absolute best source for referrals. They deserve your attention.
It’s essential to remember that you’re not just in the business of selling a product or a service, you’re in the business of forming lifelong relationships with your clients. Only when you really focus on finding out what your clients’ needs are, and delivering what they need, can you provide top-notch service.
Simply doing things like regularly returning phone calls and keeping your clients updated on what you’re doing for them will set you apart from most peoples’ image of an average lawyer. If you want to really set yourself apart from the other estate planning firms in your area, though, you’ll have to go a step or two further and put yourself in your clients’ shoes to see how you can enhance their experience with your firm. You may event want to ask your clients, in the form of a survey, what they like about your firm and how they think you can improve.
- Deliver results as efficiently as possible. In order to be truly successful at delivering on your promises to clients, you need to have systems in place to ensure that client information is easily accessible to everyone who needs it; there’s a system for drafting documents, tracking them, and sending them to clients for review; and that your clients are informed of what’s going on with their file every step of the way. Having these systems in place not only increases client satisfaction, it also helps you avoid costly mistakes. Maximizing the efficiency of your office can help you save on payroll, too.
How has the recession affected your practice? What are you doing to survive?
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Road, Suite 240
San Diego, CA 92124