Clients Are Paying for a Lot More than a Final Victory

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We've spent many a read together here at the Corner discussing fees — structure, timing, collections, etc. — and the common thread running through all those columns was that clients will always pay more willingly, in a timelier manner, and more, period, if they feel they are receiving real value.

So while we've dissected the fee angle, what about the value? Beyond the obvious — producing a windfall victory — what are the things both big and little you can do to show your clients that their hard-earned money is being spent on a worthy cause — that is, you?

All lawyers, whether they are solo practitioners or members of mega firms, can structure their services to consistently foster high value for their clients. Here are a few suggestions on how to do so:

  • Build a breadth and depth of knowledge about your clients' concerns and business issues. Clients want to feel that you not only know your business, but theirs as well. No matter how brilliant you may be in matters of the law, clients are even more impressed when you can speak to them about those matters in their own languages.

  • Create a welcoming office environment. When clients come to visit, they often feel unsettled and vulnerable. They can be easily intimidated or feel insignificant among the hustle and bustle of the law-office machine.

    To circumvent the potential unease, introduce the clients to everyone who will be working on their matters, from the attorney who may be leading the litigation in court to the office administrator who handles the copying, and ensure that the entire staff greets them by name when they come in for meetings.

    Also, have informative, easy-to-understand literature in the waiting room (where, no matter how good your client service is, they will inevitably have to wait at least some amount of time), and make sure it's available in your clients' primary languages.

  • Establish a return phone call policy. We've touched on this before, but it can't be repeated enough: Return, or have an assistant return, client phone calls within two to four hours. Anything longer than a half-day and you risk leaving a client feeling ill at ease.

  • Take all the time that is needed to prepare clients for interactive events, such as negotiation sessions, depositions and testimony, so that they know what to expect. Incorporate a wide range of possibilities so that clients are not shocked if the outcome, over which you have no control, is different from what they had expected.

  • Regularly ask clients for feedback about whether they are pleased with your services. For such a big chunk of their time spent with you, clients play the role of uninformed student to your knowledgeable teacher. That can lead to a feeling of frustrated subordination, especially for clients who have achieved great success in their own, unrelated fields. Turn the tables and let them tell you how to do your job better. Focus the feedback on their satisfaction with the service provided, not the results achieved. And finally ...

  • Never make promises that you can't keep.

A range of service elements that incorporates the preceding can help any firm justify their rates, no matter the form of the bill.

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