Lawyers are great at being lawyers – but sometimes even the most basic concepts pass them by. If you want to retain existing clients you need to start thinking like a business person!

Is this what happens in your law firm?

When a case concludes, the fee is taken and the file is closed. Who has the responsibility to keep in touch with the client? When I ask that question of law firms, I’m generally met with a lot of blank stared or downcast eyes. You see, lawyers are expert communicators during the course of a transaction, but after it’s concluded, it’s as if the relationship with the client has ended. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I think a leaking bucket is an excellent analogy when you look at the way most lawyers treat their clients. Most law firms have a significant client bank – a nice volume – just like the water in a bucket. If you maintain a good volume of clients, you’ll continue to get profitable work from them. You’ll generate fees – at least in theory.

If your bucket springs a leak or two, the water pours out. If you don’t keep in touch your firm starts to leak clients too. It may be a trickle at first but the longer it goes on, the more you’ll lose.

Why are you leaking clients?

You can leak clients in many ways. One of the most common reasons is they’ve simply forgotten who you are! It’s likely the last time they heard from you was when they paid their fee. They’ll remember how much they paid – but will they remember you?

If your client has a problem, it’s likely they’ll ask their family, ask their friends and ask their workmates who they should approach. After that, they’ll Google their problem and turn to social media for a recommendation. Why?  Because they don’t remember who you are or they don’t know you deliver the particular service they need. That’s not their fault – it’s yours!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If it’s a private client matter, there are Will Writers vying for your client, accountants and non-solicitor legal service providers delivering a whole range of private client services. There are claims companies pursuing your clients for their accident and personal injury business. For years traditional estate agents have been competing with solicitor estate agents.  Now we have low cost/fixed fee online estate agencies attacking that market – and some of these even advertise on TV! It’s a competitive world out there!

How do law firms normally plug the leaks?

The short answer is, they don’t. Many lawyers will spend lots of money trying to attract new clients to their firm. It usually has to get really bad for them to turn to their existing clients for business. In the most recent recession we saw quite a bit of Will review activity – but as the market, particularly the property market, began to recover, the Will reviews were quickly abandoned. Will reviews are something that should be continuous. They shouldn’t be used as a quick fix to help plug a cashflow hole. Clients wouldn’t be impressed to know the only reason they were being contacted was to help the lawyer survive!

Other efforts to generate fees include taking on work they have no experience of doing – and that’s not wise and a recipe for disaster. Diversification is all very well provided you have the skills and capacity to do the job.

Why should I keep in touch with existing clients?

To retain existing clients, you must keep in touch with them. Keeping in touch is also a very effective form of marketing. This isn’t new or strange. Marketing to existing clients or customers is a key aspect of the marketing plan for most businesses. What makes law firms any different? They’re all businesses – businesses delivering legal services. It’s likely your firm provides a range of services, many of which your client will be completely ignorant of. When a client engages a lawyer, the focus is usually only on the work the lawyer is engaged to do. They simply won’t be aware of your other services unless you tell them – and during the course of a case, that’s perhaps not the best time!

You need to remember, you’ve already done the hard work to win the client in the first place. If they’re satisfied with the service you delivered (and most clients are) then offering them other services is a much easier proposition.

How can I market my services to my existing clients?

There are lots of ways you can do this. You’ll at least have your clients’ names and addresses so you can send them information on your services through the post. You can read more about this on our Direct Mail page. If you have their phone number, you could call them or, better still, follow up your letter with information with a phone call.

Better still, if you have their email addresses, you can quickly and easily send them information by email. You can create and send  email newsletters or a special promotion or offer. You can even track their interaction with your email by using recognised email marketing tools.

If you don’t know where to start – ask us. We’d be happy to help. Law firm marketing, especially using email marketing and email newsletters is simple, effective and, most of all, affordable!

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Author: Brian O’Neill

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