Two immutable facts: You want clients and you are in the service business. Now, in spite of these two well-known facts, I am constantly shocked at how hard law firms and lawyers make it for clients to reach them. Well we are going to fix that right now.
1. Don’t shut your doors (and your phones) at 5 p.m.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I call a law firm “after hours” and am told by the voicemail that “the office is now closed. For a directory of lawyers … .” Sorry — but your law firm should never be closed.
Whether you hire an outside answering service or a receptionist who stays till 7 p.m., or just change the general message to say, “Welcome to … ,” don’t turn away and really turn off clients who may still be at work and need you after your receptionist has gone home. Figure out what will work best for your firm and do it.
2. Doctors are on call — you should be, too.
Here is a possible solution. Consider whether your firm can ask one attorney a night to be “on call” for emergency phone calls. Rotate this assignment around the firm.
Your goal should be to help a client, no matter the time, as fast as possible. I have never heard of a corporate firm doing this — and it certainly would be a unique selling proposition — “You can reach us 24/7.”
3. Make sure your website bio is helpful.
Have you checked your bio page? Have you printed it out and seen what basic information gets lost or changes in a printable version?
Take a few seconds to make sure both the online and printed version of your bio contain your phone number, e-mail address, address, fax number and assistant’s name. Oftentimes a client will print out this page and run with it. Make sure it gets them to you.
4. Give your clients a welcome kit.
Start things off correctly when a client hires you. Give clients a list of who is on their team from your firm — and include phone, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
For small firms, “the team” can include you, your paralegal, assistant and receptionist — and even the firm administrator. Headshot photos should be included to help clients really get to know “their” law firm.
And yes — I did say include your cell phone number or a number identified as one that can be used on weekends and at night. (Include parking suggestions as well.)
5. Make sure your assistant is not clueless!
I have many clients who love the autonomy that their practice affords them. Some, dare I say, “sneak” off to the gym or even client meetings without telling their secretaries.
Don’t do this. Your assistant is an essential part of your client’s team and needs to know where you are or who is backing you up when you are out of the office. It is your duty to keep your team apprised of your whereabouts so that clients can be helped expeditiously.
6. Make sure the receptionist is not clueless!
What if you are out and your assistant runs an errand or goes to lunch or is mailing something for you down the hall. Make sure your receptionist knows who the “backup” lawyer or staff person is in case a client calls.
7. Does your business card mean business?
Make sure your business card contains your address, e-mail, fax and yes … cell phone number. Clients should be explicitly given special access to your “other” phone numbers.
8. Does your e-mail signature mean business?
Similar to No. 7 above, make sure your e-mail signature (on I-phones and Blackberries) provides all necessary information to the recipient.
I receive numerous e-mails from lawyers every day with no phone numbers attached and more. Don’t make it so hard for folks to contact you!
9. Directories — dos and don’ts.
If you are listed in directories ( Martindale Hubbell , Best Lawyers , Super Lawyers and many others) check how hard or easy it is to find yourself when your name or practice area is inputted. Make sure your information is complete and extremely easy to access.
If you are participating on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete and your LinkedIn URL is also found on your bio, business card and even e-mail signature.
10. Just talk to your clients.
We all want business, which means we all want clients. The best way to keep a client is to deliver superior legal work and service. The best service is personal and regular and beneficial to the client.
So talk to your clients. Ask them if there are any ways you can improve your accessibility. Their opinion is really all that counts.
Well now that we have that all figured out, next time we will focus on great strategies to grow your practice. For now, share this article with your team and make sure your house is in order in the aforementioned ways. So get up, get started … get going!
Stacy West Clark has been helping Philadelphia lawyers and law firms expand their practices for more than 20 years. She is a former attorney with Morgan Lewis & Bockius and was the firm’s first marketing director. She is president of Stacy Clark Marketing, www.stacyclarkmarketing.com, a firm that helps law firms grow their businesses.