Four ways law firms can build relationships
The inability of some lawyers to meaningfully connect with their clients is hardly surprising. The long hours, stressful situations and regular demands of the job can result in clients being overlooked and feeling unsupported. If developed, skills such as the ability to communicate and connect empathetically with clients can avoid these issues and result in constructive long term lawyer/client relationships. Here are 4 ways law firms can build relationships with their clients:
1. Build awareness
For any leader or manager seeking success, awareness of business goals is crucial. Lawyers need to ensure that they command the trusted adviser role. They should be transitioning from providing a functional service to becoming a vital resource for their clients. Lawyers should aim to understand their client beyond the legal matter at hand, as this will help connect with clients and establish a relationship that may lead to additional work or referrals.
It is important to capture these additional conversations in a central repository, allowing you to check in on more personal aspects of the relationship such as the wellbeing of family members, and the exchange of seasonal/birthday messages. These gestures reinforce the idea that the client is more than numbers on a screen, or a source of income for a lawyer or firm.
2. Become storytellers
Willingness to tell a story to help communicate something that could be complex can be a valuable tool in acquiring the trust and respect of your clients. Using simple analogies relevant to the client’s field or interests, or drawing from your own personal experience will allow the client to connect and better understand a potentially complex legal situation.
These techniques help to engage the client, ensuring that they feel heard and understood by the individual or firm handling their legal matters, which can often be intensely personal.
3. Ask more questions
Lawyers may be fearful of asking too many questions in case their question is posed back to them – they don’t always have the answers! There may be the expectation that since the client is paying for their expertise and their time, then they must have the right answer for them at all times. A common concern is that this could be embarrassing for the lawyer, and may make them look incompetent in front of their client.
Open-ended questions can be a good way to engage with clients and allow them to fill in gaps you may be facing – in order to help resolve a matter, you need to understand it comprehensively, so leave room for your client to express their perspective without restriction.
Additionally, asking clients why they are in business, finding out their strategic goals, and discussing what their future holds allows you to better understand your client and their needs, whatever the matter at hand may be.
By asking more questions, lawyers will be able to get a better picture of their client and the situation, allowing them to ultimately deliver greater results.
4. Aim for structure
Look to the “Five Ps” to provide structure:
PLAN To build a client’s strategic foundation by better understanding the client's situation. By setting goals with the client, an effective plan can be put together to ensure the client receives what they need.
PATTERN Identify patterns by reflecting on past experiences (with the client or on past similar cases) and learn from those instances. It is important that the client has a consistent positive experience, even if they are with another lawyer within the same firm.
POSITION This is about how the firm has positioned the client for growth. This may be in a commercial sense or from a family matter. It is important that the law firm position their client in the clearest way possible for growth. Being able to record the current stakeholders and have the client effectively communicate about these stakeholders will allow the lawyer to better position the client.
PERSPECTIVE Work with clients to ensure that their perspectives are kept in check along the journey. They may need to adjust their goals, and expected initial outcomes may need to be adjusted as needed. It is vital that these communications are tracked and recorded.
PLOY Give the client control back by outsmarting the competition. It is important that lawyers stay afresh and up-to-date on the current trends that will allow them to better understand the changing environment. These changes should be communicated with the client in simple and engaging ways; you may want to consider an analogy or story.
These strategies can go a long way to build a connection with your clients helping to assist in return business, effectively helping to future-proof your firm.