If lawyers can gain their client’s trust, they can win their business. Luckily, thanks to technology and a swath of online tools, earning trust and providing a better overall client experience is as simple as ever. All it takes is a little effort, and for lawyers to think of clients like any other consumer.
Avvo Corporate Counsel Esther Sirotnik’s full presentation is available here:
“The attorney-client relationship embodies a level of trust,” Sirotnik says. “This is about providing information and transparency to consumers so that they become your clients, and then it’s about taking that relationship and continuing to foster it and leverage it moving forward.”
As Sirotnik puts it, there are five ways lawyers gain their client’s trust, and it begins the moment a potential client sits down at a computer or pulls out their phone. Lawyers have to be proactive in managing their online presence and meet the consumer’s expectations for information. And in a world where consumers know the origin of the bean before ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks, they’re certain to be researching lawyers and reading reviews online.
In fact, before even picking up the phone and calling a single attorney, a typical consumer will check at least seven different sources of information about the lawyer to get an idea of who they are and how they practice.
“In order to trust you, and have the confidence to even reach out to you, they need to feel like they understand who you are and how you practice,” Sirotnik says.
This means getting out of the cul-de-sac and establishing an online presence where consumers can easily see you from the comfort of their cellphone. From having a user-friendly website with professional photography to being active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, lawyers need to tell consumers who they are and what they do.
Being accessible online doesn’t help if the lawyer doesn’t respond when a consumer reaches out. This is the first chance for a lawyer to prove they will be there for the client, and even waiting a couple of hours to respond to a call or email can erode any amount of trust they established with their online profiles. One way lawyers can eliminate communication issues is through online tools like autoresponders, virtual assistants, and live chat.
Once lawyers make that connection with a potential client, they have to be transparent from the very first meeting and communicate information in a way that consumers easily understand, especially when it comes to pricing and the engagement letter.
One of the biggest obstacles to client trust is misunderstanding—when lawyers aren’t upfront with fees, or can’t communicate well through an engagement letter, they won’t be trustworthy.
Open communication shouldn’t end after the client signs the engagement letter, either. It has to continue throughout the relationship. Lawyers today cannot work on a case and expect the client to simply wait for an outcome without receiving any updates.
“Give them a channel and tell them ‘I’m going to be responsive to you,” Sirotnik says. “This isn’t just about proactive communication and keeping them in the loop. It’s about listening to them.”
The number one cause of disciplinary actions for lawyers isn’t stealing money or fee splitting. It’s failing to respond, and failing to keep clients informed about what’s happening with their cases.
By having open lines of communication when something does go wrong, the client will go straight to the lawyer instead of turning to Twitter and other social media platforms to complain or leave negative reviews.
The final piece of the puzzle is what Sirotnik calls “closing the loop.” Lawyers can bring the cycle back to the beginning by leveraging the trust they earned with clients by requesting reviews, sending out surveys, and even communicating through quarterly newsletters.
“The relationship comes back together to the very beginning, because it’s the foundation on which your next consumer will stand when they look at whether or not to hire you.”
You may download the slides from this presentation here.