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If you look to build a relationship, then the chances of securing ongoing client work become all the stronger
This article isn’t about marriage, but it is about relationships. In particular it is about the ongoing relationship which a legal practice may have with its clients. In a time of increasing competition within the legal services field the competition for clients grows ever stronger.
Those who have been within the legal profession for some time may look back longingly to an era in which your client was your client for life and the family solicitor was passed down the generations. Nowadays however the ties of loyalty are not as strong and clients are increasingly likely to view solicitors as providers of a one-off service. Yes you may well offer conveyancing services, will writing, probate and other services but it’s a fair bet that clients may see you for one service and then move on.
The same is true when it comes to business clients. Excluding those businesses which have their own in-house legal team, a business leaders may well turn to one firm to help with the purchase of business premises and then move on to another firm for employment advice. So what can legal practices do to build up a long-term retained relationship with clients?
If you are to believe the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan then corporate lawyers should be stepping above just meeting client expectations and instead acting as a legal conscience. Talking to an International Bar Association conference Kofi Annan told delegates “You are in a unique position of influence. You give your clients the advice they want to hear, but you need to go beyond that.” adding that they should “Tell your clients you don’t need to wait for a government to pass a new law to do what’s right.”
Acting in such a way does depend on already having a strong relationship with clients but there are plenty of other things which solicitors can do to make themselves the adviser of choice and to build an ongoing relationship. Firstly, be available to clients. If a client calls and you are in a meeting then phone them back, or at least make sure that someone from your firm gets in touch to move the query on. Don’t just ignore the call and certainly don’t delay your response until you are ready. If there is no news because you are waiting for something from the other side, then pick up the phone and let your client know. If you have promised a response by a certain time or date then ensure that response is made on time.
Secondly, take time to really understand your clients. Clients don’t have legal problems, they have personal or business issues which they need legal support to solve. The better you know your client and their circumstances, the more you will be able to provide an ongoing professional service which helps them on a personal and business level.
And finally, always seek to give more. You are a professional and you are being paid as such but extracting every last cent from the contract will only sour your client’s view of the relationship. It doesn’t take much to say ‘by the way I noticed’ or ‘you might want to consider’ but it can make all the difference to a long-term and trusting relationship. If you see your client purely in terms of a transaction, then when the transaction is finished your client will move on. If you look to build a relationship, then the chances of securing ongoing client work become all the stronger.