Reuters conducted a recent survey of law firms with less than 30 attorneys and found these five issues to be their biggest challenges:
What does it take to grow, thrive and deal with some of these challenges? With the growing challenge of DIY legal websites, it’s important for a law firm to take steps to attract and retain clients. This takes a team with a client-centric approach with shared goals, and a clear strategy. The best practices understand the importance of instilling a sense of purpose in everyone in the organization. This starts with the partners taking time to define, then communicate, what the practice will be known for, and developing a strategic communication process to promote it. This takes:
Vision integration. Top performing practices define clear approaches to how their practice will function including consistent practices your clients can expect. It’s helpful to define values by which the organization will function, then operationalize behaviors which will be expected throughout the organization. A uniform practice of client services is created through developing standards then holding everyone accountable for them through reinforcement and recognition.
Organization-wide communication. This includes not only internal communication to keep the team abreast of changes, it means helping your team understand how to control costs. This is accomplished by sharing information and asking for cost-saving input. You also need to effectively communicate with clients to ensure your clients receive consistent communication to help them to feel you have their back. A key to competing is an experience that leaves your clients talking about your practice. In addition, a good way to reinforce the vision is to share stories of times where partners’ or employees’ behavior exemplified the values. Then communicate it throughout the organization.
Client feedback. It’s important to listen to your clients’ experience of your firm. This can provide valuable information about the service you provide. It’s important to understand how your organization met or exceeded the clients’ expectations and who was responsible. Take this opportunity to recognize the member of your team to help others understand how this impacted your client. It is also important to ask clients for feedback to improve their experience. Thank them for their valuable feedback, find ways to utilize the information, then let your client know the changes made based on their input. A good way to gather information is to take your clients out to lunch to ask how the firm is doing.
Administrative tasks. Although it is great to have in-house administrative help, today there are plenty of virtual options. Take time to determine where you are spending your time, and how you might outsource work that is eating up your time. You may even want to share a trusted employee with another non-compete firm. It is imperative that you hire someone who understands they represent your firm in the manner you desire, reinforces your brand, and lives your values.
Provide value. To attract and retain clients, offer in-house educational programs of interest to your clients. It is helpful to anticipate what your clients may need regarding contemporary issues. Allow clients to bring guests who might benefit from the information then reach out to them once they have experienced your practice and offer to meet with them.
Improving internal efficiency. A good way to improve your client’s experience is to create efficiency in the way in which issues are resolved. Often inefficiency occurs when employees do not have clear expectations or are not aligned with the vision of the organization.
Attracting clients/talent. It’s important your website not only lets clients know what they can expect, but also prospective talent. People want to understand what it will be like to work at or with your firm so introduce them to it by way of your website. Consider your brand when creating your website and marketing materials. A smart web strategy will make your firm stand out to prospective clients and talent a well.
By taking time to involve your people in addressing these issues you can make your practice more competitive and engage them as well. This takes planning and communication to make it work, but it will be time worth investing.
Beth Sears, Ph.D., is president of Workplace Communication Inc., based in Scottsville, New York.