THE LAWYERS WEEKLY: Standout Service Makes a Firm Stand Out

Gary’s column from The Lawyers Weekly, November 18 2016

Be honest: is your firm doing everything it can to better serve your clients? Are your lawyers taking the time to really get to know and understand the needs of your clients and the big picture view?

Before you go out and spend money on your marketing initiatives, ensure you are helping your lawyers better serve your clients, building valuable business partnerships, and truly understanding the needs and challenges, ensuring better alignment and increased value.

Read on Gary’s Published Articles page

Innovation in big law

What’s all the hub bub about innovation and disruption? Clients not only need more value, they are demanding it. For those of you at large firms, how does that relate to you? It’s all about unbundling services, making it easier for your clients to purchase your services, streamlining process and cutting the fat, providing more value etc.

Here is an example of innovation, this one from Big Law. http://www.unitedlex.com/news-and-events/press-releases/2013/pr_103013.php

Here’s an excerpt, “After evaluating a broad range of partner and delivery alternatives, LeClairRyan selected UnitedLex to collaborate in the design and implementation of one of the most comprehensive legal support delivery programs in the industry. UnitedLex will assume responsibility for the operations of LeClairRyan’s Discovery Solutions Practice and will provide additional capital allowing the firm to have best-in-class, end-to-end litigation support for its practices and clients on a global scale. More than 400 attorneys and litigation support technologists will transition to UnitedLex, making this solutions center launch the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The LeClairRyan Legal Solutions Center will be located in Richmond, Va.”

LeClairRyan Chief Executive Officer David Freinberg added, “Innovation has long been a part of LeClairRyan’s DNA, and our new Center is an outstanding example of our commitment to satisfying our clients’ desire for cost effective, end-to-end solutions.”

Change or die

Change or die is an expression that’s been around a long time in the business world.  Well legal industry, get used to the expression and live by it. Moving forward things will not look like it did pre-recession. Your clients will not continue to pay over-exorbitant fees. They will look for better value and be open to using non-traditional sources for their legal work. They will demand more. The insulation so to speak, is over.

If you are one of those lawyers that continues to think nothing will change, I ask you, what was your second career choice? You may need to revert to it and sooner than later. In Canada if we want to see the future of legal services, all we have to do is look south of the border and even overseas. 

But this also presents abundant opportunities for those lawyers and law firms who are open to doing things differently. Go and speak with your clients before they come to you. Find out exactly what they need from you. How you can better accommodate them? What different models do you or your firm need to create?

Change or die. It’s only doom and gloom if you don’t take hede.

Go the extra mile

Another sure-fire way to ensure you are getting more referral clients is to go the extra mile in your service delivery. Be as flexible to your clients’ need as possible.Provide them with samples or case studies of past work to help them understand the process. Make sure that if you’re not available at any given time, that someone on your team is. Never leave your clients hanging in their time of crisis. Do whatever you can to deliver the best possible service.

I’ve said this many times, but what makes your clients happier even more than your ‘lawyer’ skills, is your approach to service. Always remember, at the core, you are a service provider.And that is what will stand out for your clients just as much if not more than your lawyering ability. Another value-added approach, especially if your clients are business people, is making introductions for them to your vast network. Help them grow their business.

Set up realistic expectations

Work with your clients from the very beginning and set up realistic expectations. Never promise anything you can’t deliver. It’s better so say no, then to say yes and not get it done. Walk them through the variables and educate them on the process as much as possible. They will really appreciate it. Remember, you’ve done this a million times. This could be their first time going through the process. Depending on the nature of the file or the work you are doing for them, they could be going through a very tough time. Don’t underestimate the discomfort they may feel, the level of uncertainty. This isn’t about your ‘lawyer’ skills. This is about your ‘people’ skills and level of service which will go a long way in separating you from your competition and providing more potential referrals.

Get more referrals

The easiest way to get more referrals is from your clients. The fastest way to do this is to ensure they are completely happy with your service. In my opinion, that starts with effective communication. One of the top complaints lawyers get from clients is that they don’t communicate often enough and make assumptions. Communication is at the heart of your service to your clients. So get agreement from the very beginning on how often and by which method your clients would like you to communicate with them. And also explain, the more that communication is required, this will add to the cost of your services.

The next thing I recommend, is to give your clients permission to give you feedback throughout your dealings with them. Your clients might be intimidated by you and not want to point something out when it’s relatively small. And you want to know if something isn’t quite to their liking so you can fix it in that moment before it grows and festers to the point where they don’t want to pay their bill. Often when mistakes are made, it’s not the mistake that people remember. it’s how quickly and effectively the mistake is corrected or reversed.