The legal sector is upbeat and from talking to people, there is a definite sense amongst lawyers that it’s all getting better. This is evidenced in The Bellwether Report 2015: The Age of the Client too – it highlights that practice performance is showing encouraging signs of growth. 63 per cent of firms say performance in increasing and two-thirds of lawyers anticipate growth over the next five years too.
This is heartening of course – the legal sector has recently undergone possibly one of the deepest recessions in its history, and at last the horizon is beginning to look rosy. However, one cannot but help caution against a false sense of security. In this digital age where there is an abundance of choice, clients like most consumers are not brand loyal, and what they perceive as value is markedly different to what lawyers believe customers value. Procurement, especially in B2B law is approached very differently by purchasers – the sacrosanct relationship with the lawyer/law firm is no longer a given. Also, common terminology means different things to both parties. ‘Transparency of costs’ is a case in point. For lawyers it means a quote of their hourly rate, but for clients it means knowing exactly what the deliverable is for that cost.
Firms need to have a client relationship management strategy. This entails devising an approach to help them develop a robust relationship with each of their clients across the various stages of engagement – right from prospect, contact and customer stages through to earning the trust and making the client an ‘advocate’ of your firm. In a corporate situation, the relationship may be driven by the lawyer/firm helping the client run his business by developing a deep understanding of the challenges and difficulties. In a home conveyancing situation, the relationship may be focused on being empathetic to a client’s personal situation, appreciating his or her need to complete the deal and helping them to achieve that result within the desired timeframe.
It is perhaps counter intuitive to lawyers and a departure from the way they have traditionally operated, but things like listening, caring, providing regular updates, demystifying the law, keeping to timetables and such are what differentiates one lawyer from another – and are the key factors that will introduce the much-desired, but missing ‘stickiness’ in the lawyer-client relationship in the current business environment.
Client relationship management done well will go a long way in securing firms’ future, regardless of the turn that the economy might take in years to come. It will poise them well to ride the wave in good times and secure them enough to enable them to weather the storm when the economic outlook is not as positive. Firms will ignore it at their peril.
You can download the full copy of The Bellwether Report 2015: The Age of the Client here.