Despite all the education and experience we attain and apply to generating new business for our practice, there’s an aspect of business development that we frequently overlook – client responsiveness.
It’s one of the most important things you can do for your practice. In fact, Clio’s 2017 Legal Trends Report found that “responding quickly to phone calls and emails is arguably the most important factor for potential clients.” Responsiveness even outranked a great-looking website, fixed fees, and a free consult as to what most attracts potential clients.
While it sounds easy to be responsive to potential clients, it can be more challenging to actually do so. Not because we don’t care, but because it’s easy to get tied up in casework, or because we perhaps think we have time to get back to them. The truth is, they aren’t simply waiting by the phone for us to call them back. Their legal issue is understandably a priority for them and they’re looking for someone who will acknowledge or address their needs immediately. If they don’t hear back from you soon enough, they will continue to find someone who will.
The idea of client responsiveness goes hand in hand with the bigger issue of valuing our clients and understanding that when it comes to managing our practice, we need them as much as they need us. So it’s critical to treat and manage those relationships as such.
Here are a few times being responsiveness resulted in value for my practice:
- Recently, a client expressed her appreciation for my responsiveness. It was an eye-opening moment as I realized that what I thought was a common courtesy of paying attention to client needs may not be the norm among all lawyers. And thus, because the other party’s lawyer was not answering phone calls, emails, or generally paying attention to the matter, my attentiveness to the case was particularly highlighted, and my client praised me for it (which we know can lead to other good things)
- In another instance, I once informed a potential client that my policy is to respond to client communications within 24 hours or less – whether an email, phone or otherwise. She looked at me with a sense of relief and explained that one of the primary reasons she was then going to switch counsel was that her current lawyer did not return phone calls or emails for days or even weeks. She was thrilled to discover that this was not the way all lawyers operate.
- While I believe that it is important that we are not tied to our practice 24/7 and we all need time away, sometimes being responsive to clients can be equally rewarding. For example, while on vacation, I received a voicemail message at my office from a potential new client. It sounded like she was in a desperate situation and needed some immediate advice. I called her for a few minutes and helped put her mind at ease. She was so thankful and grateful I took the time to call her despite being out of the office. That connection allowed me to ease some of her concern to the point that she waited for me to return to set up an initial meeting, which ultimately led to her retaining me for the representation.
So when a client calls or emails, do not consider the communication a nuisance. It shouldn’t cost you anything other than some time and thoughtfulness. In the end, remember that being responsive to clients is really just a matter of respect, and everyone wants to feel respected.