Benefits for your Firm
Remind clients your firm exists
Sending a questionnaire to clients
who you haven't heard from for a period of time
is an excellent way of reminding them
that you are still 'their' attorney and that you
are available for questions, consultations
or any other reason.
Reestablishes personal contact
Individualized request letters reinforce
relationships with clients who have lost contact
with the firm. For example, "Dear Bob,
Our Firm is rededicating itself to providing
quality services to our clients and your
input in the process would be most helpful..."
Reminds clients of your firm's strengths
The request letter can be drafted
to reinforce certain firm attributes in the mind of
the client, such as our firm's commitment
to quality or the fact that your firm values
their opinion. The request letter can
also introduce the client to other aspects of the
firm's practice development plans. For
example, "As part of our commitment to
serve the changing needs of our small
business clients, we..."
Gathers insight into what your clients find dissatisfying
In a competitive environment where
other practitioners are more than willing to take
over for you, little things mean a lot.
They can't be dealt with if they are not understood.
Identifies what your clients see as your firm's strong points
It is just as important to understand
what is seen as your strengths as to understand
what is seen as a weakness. Practice development
is a program of building on the positive.
Gathers input from the non-vocal majority
The majority of clients do not complain
about small discrepancies between what they want,
or feel they need, and the service your
firm provides. Likewise, they often do not reinforce
those aspects of our services that have
real meaning and importance to them.
But they all have opinions and they all
make recommendations to others.
Lets you know what keeps your best clients coming back
The goal is to have more 'best' clients.
Clients who see your firm as a valuable
part of their life and business. These
are clients who recommend you to others,
not to do you a favor, but to do a favor
for the person in need of your services.
Gathers positive, if unintentional, input on fees
What we'll call 'fee felicity' is
a witches brew of expectation and satisfaction.
Often a firm must consider its fee structure
without effective input from clients.
While they all say they want lower fees,
the economic reality of law practice is
a bit different. A survey can rank client's
'fee felicity' so as to allow the firm to
know where it can raise fees and where
it should hold the line.
Helps you understand what messages you and the other principles of
the firm have been giving clients in spite of yourselves
We tend to judge ourselves by professional
standards, and our clients judge us by
the standards important to them. A survey
can allow them to tell us things they think
and fed about us that we could learn in
no other way; things that make a big
difference in the firm's professional
Forms an evaluation factor that unifies the staff
If client satisfaction with overall
staff is emphasized, and those behaviors that
contribute to client satisfaction are
made known, those factors (pleasant telephone
presentation, quick call backs, etc.)
become a common focus.
Evaluates support staff based on client perception and feedback
As practitioners run faster and faster
just to stay in place, support staff has more
collateral as well as substantive contact
with clients. Surveys can measure the
satisfaction produced by these contacts.
Rewards support staff based on something that won't encourage intraoffice
Many factors contribute to the evaluation
of staff, but making those who pay the
fees happy ranks near the top. By adding
a client satisfaction factor to the staff
evaluation and compensation review process,
a factor with direct impact on the
firm's bottom line, and its future, is
Provides a basis for the tough decisions
For the likely balance of this legal
generation, most of the attorneys are men and
most of the support staff aren't. In this
era of age and sex discrimination allegations,
staffing changes supported by a client
centered, Independently analyzed reason is
not only a good idea, it is fair to all
Unifies the partners
There are many firms where in areas
of contention such as "Do we, or do we not,
advertise for divorce work on the radio"
or "Should we emphasize intellectual property
law in our business newsletter?" often
the status quo prevails because the log jam can't
be broken. Research provides fresh input
from the people who pay the fees.
Establishes a baseline for practice development measurement
Practice development plans needs a
baseline to make progress measurements meaningful.
Where the firm wishes to strengthen its
practice in specific areas of the law, it must
understand what image it has given to
its past clients in that area.
Identifies specific action points
Replace a nebulous goal such as, "Let's
all work harder to make clients happier" with
a concrete objective such as, "Lets get
the clients perceived telephone response time
down to two hours."
Establishes positive goals
Surveys can be created to provide
specific numerical rankings on certain attributes.
This allows the firm to set improvement
goals for individuals or groups that have a
direct relationship to the firm's success.
Establishes a starting point for firm organization or reorganization
Retirements and other career moves
often leave the firm looking for a way to
reorganize itself. Research provides baseline
data, putting the process on a
sound empirical foundation.
Provides a focus for team building
The efficiency that will provide for
the firm's future in everyone working together.
Easy to say, sometimes tough to do. Research
starts with getting everyone to
focus on the same goal at the same time.
It puts everyone on the same page
of the game plan.
Gathers objective information to resolve issues
Firmly held divergent beliefs, usually
in good faith, have blocked many a plan.
Objective research has no part of the
self-fulfilling prophecies that underlie
self-attempted or anecdotal research.
The results are fair, accurate and repeatable.
Gathers objective feedback for staff training
If clients rate an individual's performance
poorly, "ya, but" arguments lose the ability
to shield the individual from the realization
that improvement is necessary.
Gains insight into which associates are going to become rainmakers
The ability to satisfy clients was
thought of as a gift. Now we know it is a learned art.
With the first client they meet, associates
have an impact on the future of the firm.
Clients are often hesitant to criticize
a new attorney; trying to do the young attorney
a favor while bad habits get chiseled
Turns associates into rainmakers while not turning them into competitors
An associate development program that
includes client satisfaction can go a long
way toward convincing the promising young
attorney that a sound future lies in
staying with the firm. Good client skills
are developed because of the firm,
not in spite of it.
Provides perspective about future merger partners or employees
When you consider linking up with
another practitioner or firm, it is important to
know as much about them as possible. What
their clients can tell you, just as what
your clients can tell them, is of major
consequence in assuring that the merger will
be successful. The research gives you
an additional perspective permitting greater
personal as well as professional, compatibility.
Establishes a baseline for cross client education
In a firm that provides services in
different areas of the law, clients who have received
services from one member in one area of
the law, such as divorce, may not 'realize'
that the firm has attorneys who are expert
in other areas, such as personal injury.
Even where the client is satisfied with
the service received, the client does not support
the firm's development by not recommending
the firm to others with perceived personal
injury needs simply due to lack of awareness.
Measures the effect of your competitors' advertising
Has the incessant barrage of media
commercials given your clients the notion that in the
event they, or someone they know, has
an accident or injury, that they 'need' a Personal
Measures the effect of your advertising
If your firm has a media program,
modest or substantial, it impacts those who know you
as well as those who don't. Understanding
that impact is critical to firm development.
Measures the effectiveness of your advertising consultant
Even the most ethical ad person tends
to see their work through rose colored glasses.
What benefits your firm is an analysis
of how the people who pay your fees see your
Adds substance to your marketing
Look at the yellow pages, every firm
with an ad is telling potential clients some
conclusion they would like the potential
client to reach. Research allows your firm
to discover something that adds substance
to what your ads tell folks about the firm.
Fine tunes your market or practice development efforts.
A serious amount of resources, both
time and money, must be invested in a practice
development program to make it successful.
The efficiency improvements provided
by competently done research make the
dollars go further and the results arrive quicker.
Enhances (the image of) your firm's professionalism
The word 'professionalism' has many
different meanings, but they all deal with the image
of how a lawyer should look and act. Every
measure of the positive attributes of the legal
profession -- the attributes of 'professionalism'
-- emphasizes elements of competence,
caring, and leadership. Asking, rather
than waiting to be told, not only enhances
professionalism, but improves the image
of professionalism as well.
Creates a stronger firm through growth
When you understand how clients see
your firm, you are in a better position to make sure
that future changes and additions improve
quality, professionalism and profitability;
not just size.
Measures the firm's perceived cohesiveness.
Does the client see the firm as a
unified group or a gathering of single attorneys?
This can have a direct link to the perception
of the strength of the legal service provider.
Surveying our clients is ethical
Wisconsin's Board of Attorneys Professional
Responsibility has reviewed our written
Research Methodology and found that it is consistent with the
Code of Professional Responsibility.
Gathering information on client wants, needs and perceptions is ethical.
The Code of Professional Responsibility
requires that attorneys obtain "consent
after full disclosure" in a number of
situations. For both the individual practitioner
and the firm, seeing their practice from
the client's point of view allows more effective
communications, more effective full disclosure.
Full disclosure is an ethical duty.
Rule1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of
Professional Conduct provides in part, that
"a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably
informed about the status of a matter and
promptly comply with reasonable requests
for information." Understanding how
clients see you, your firm and the profession
helps you present the information
they are entitled to in a manner they
are more likely to understand.
Client communications are "effective" when they are from the client's
There seems to be a trend, shown in
such cases as Togstad v. Otto, Miller & Keefe,
291 N.W. 2d 686 (Minn. 1980) that define
reasonable and effective communications
from the client's perspective. Firms are
becoming responsible for not only what their
attorneys say, but what the client hears.
Listening skills can keep an attorney from becoming the kind of lawyer
clients want to sue. "Effective,
timely, responsive and courteous communication dramatically reduces the risk
of being sued for malpractice." "An Attorney
who handles hundred of cases must remember
that to a client, there is only one case
the attorney is handling -- his or her own. It is
important for the attorney to maintain
good client relationships by showing a caring attitude."
Lawyers Professional Responsibility Program, p. CR-7
When considering bring together two
firms, or adding part of another firm to yours,
it is a good idea to gather information
from the clients of those who are going to
change the makeup of your firm and its
position with clients and potential clients alike.
Please call, mail, or
with your comments or for more information.
Advocates Management, Inc.
1332 South 26th Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220
Voice: (877) ADVOCATES (toll free)
Fax: (920) 684-4414
Who We Are