Every buttoned-up law firm builds protective measures into client intake.
Whether it’s conflict searches, sending out engagement letters for signatures, setting up matters in practice or financial management software or any of the day-to-day tasks that play a key role in establishing proper records and conducting due diligence, all are considered standard processes for shielding the firm, and the client, from any future conflicts or misunderstandings.
However comprehensive those standard intake processes may seem, though, legal technologist Craig Bayer says there’s still something sorely missing: Defined processes for improving client communications and value.
As founder and owner of Optiable, a consulting firm specializing in analyzing law firm technology needs, then customizing and optimizing solutions to improve day-to-day productivity, Mr. Bayer has found success helping law firms use technology to improve client service and value.
“Smart firms go beyond standard client-intake processes to make sure strong client communications are also built in from the beginning,” Mr. Bayer says.
An important part of that client-value equation is making sure firms understand client expectations from day one.
“Every attorney knows that clients aren’t always going to be reasonable,” he said. “All the more reason to find out what they’re thinking up front. Attorneys need to take the time to listen to their clients, but ultimately, it’s the attorney’s job to use his or her own experience to set realistic expectations for timing, budget and result – all within a range, of course – and help the client understand why there may be differences from what they came into the office thinking.”
Mr. Bayer also recommends that attorneys take advantage of a simple tool in their law firm practice management software to improve client value and communications in the intake process, and throughout the relationship: Ticklers.
“Attorneys tend to think of ticklers only as a way of remembering specific docketing tasks to avoid malpractice,” he said. “But there’s no reason not to use the same system for prompting attorneys to contact their clients at regular intervals.”
“You can easily set ticklers up in seconds, yet getting regular reminders to check in on your clients is one of the most valuable things you can do to improve client communications and value. When you consider that inadequate communication consistently ranks as the number one bar association complaint from disaffected law firm clients, maintaining regular contact becomes every bit as important for law firms as it is for their clients.”
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