We asked 100 Lawyers – the results
Why we did the survey
It started when I was invited to speak at a seminar for legal professionals on the topic of “Increasing profits through better understanding your clients”. To make the presentation interesting I decided to find out what Lawyers thought their clients really cared about.
This white paper is based on the responses from 100 legal professionals who we asked to answer our survey questions as if they were a client of their own firm. Other analysis is based on the presentation, our larger database of information and working with specific clients.
What legal practices want
Like most businesses legal practices would like a steady and growing stream of profitable revenue. Many believe that success will come from understanding and capitalising on the relationship they have with their clients. The big challenge is how because increasingly clients are buying on price and new competitors are appearing.
These are becoming very competitive times for the legal profession and the gloves really came off when DLA Piper ran an advert in The Times. The headline said: “Tell me about the relationship with your lawyer”. The text then went on to say: “It turns out there was no relationship. Most lawyers only do what is necessary, probably perfectly well…” Ouch, that is a very strong message.
According to our survey just over 40% of legal firms carry out annual customer surveys. That leaves nearly 60% who don’t. In my all industries benchmark nearly 75% of organisations do regular surveys.
I also discovered that many of the surveys carried out by law firms are often basic customer satisfaction surveys. They produce scores but often deliver little understanding of what clients really care about and therefore are not easy to act upon.
“Would you recommend us?”
We asked our 100 law professionals how they thought their own clients would respond if asked how they felt about recommending their firm. Around 50% of lawyers thought that their clients would strongly recommend them. Compare this to my overall benchmark average of 27% and the fact that the highest average rating for any of our clients is below 40%.
This difference in scores between firms and their clients could have a very significant impact on projected future earning for some firms. The need is to really understand which of your clients will strongly recommend you and crucially, why. It’s then much easier to ensure that you continue doing what they like and to identify potential new clients who like the same things.
It’s about the relationship
At a one to one level the client-lawyer relationship is typically very good and the expertise given highly valued. However the relationship weakens rapidly when client and lawyer are not working closely together.
I asked our 100 lawyers how they thought their clients would rate them on an “easy to do business with” scale. The weighted score came in just 3% above the all industries average. But, shouldn’t it be much higher for such a personal professional business where relationship counts for so much?
Keeping in touch
A key factor in the client-law firm relationship which does not get enough attention is keeping in touch. The finding shows that law firms believe they are much better at keeping in touch than their clients think they are. Our lawyers rated their ability to keep in touch at 87%. The average response on my benchmark is 75%. It seems that several firms may be a bit too optimistic about how their clients would rate them. One reason for this could be that, unlike the lawyers, clients are unclear about next steps and how long things normally take. It’s therefore important to take this into account when working with clients and at least give them time estimates for next steps.
But why didn’t you ask us?
We discovered that clients are interested in two different aspects of keeping in touch. The first is keeping in touch with what’s going on during a case as described above. This causes significant client frustration. The second aspect of keeping in touch is between cases. This ultimately causes frustration for the law firm.
Over time (and it’s not very long) clients will “forget” the great lawyer who helped them resolve a serious issue. When they need more legal help they’ll start searching for a law firm from scratch instead of coming back to the great lawyer’s firm.
Law firms who are good at keeping in touch are also much more likely to get recommended. This is true even if the original client only used them in a one-off situation. Most law firms need to review communications with current and previous clients.
In a well-constructed client relationship survey the questions tell you what people care about and the comments tell you why. Sometimes in great detail. The skill is in combining these two sources of information, comparing it to the benchmark and then identifying the right course of action for your specific organisation.
The results will almost certainly identify a few surprises concerning what your clients really care about. Here are a few real examples of comments that our clients have received:
• I wish I could just phone you instead of booking an appointment (they already provided this service)
• I would use you more often if you had a car park
• I use you because you answer the phones quickly
• You have the best web site in the area
• I only realised you also did family work when I saw toys in the conference room
• Your accounts department are rude
• This is the first time you have ever contacted me
• You agreed to meet at my office 5 years ago – that’s why I’m still a client
• We support the same local charity
• When Mary Jones goes I’ll follow her
• You were recommended by my hairdresser
• Please fix your air conditioning
I wonder what your clients would tell you in a structured client relationship survey?
If you would like to find out please get contact me.
Marketing and Business Consultant
Three Step Consulting Ltd
0118 989 1107