Often misquoted, Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of a species that survives, or the most intellectual, it is the most adaptable.” Smart law firms have embraced this sentiment and are using it to inform their business strategies - particularly after the events of the past two years.
Whilst these changes have been brewing for a while, they have recently accelerated. Key changes have taken place in relation to client service; people want their matters dealt with quickly and their emotions acknowledged.
Whether this is palatable to law firms or not, these are the tastes of the 2022 client.
At the heart of the LFMC ‘What Clients Want’ report is an important question: do law firms service clients appropriately? While this can only be answered truthfully by each individual firm, this report provides client-led guidance to help and a blueprint on how to meet modern expectations.
Two salient points have been neatly distilled - pricing and communication, and this repeatedly crops up in research. Legal outcome is secondary. Value for money and open, clear and constant communication are prized above everything else. The resulting message to law firms is to make this your focus for next year.
Cards on the table, we won’t be commenting on law firms’ pricing. However, as a communications specialist serving the legal profession for more than a decade, we’re well-placed to offer additional advice in this area. Above all else, it’s a joy to see law firms tackle their communication gaps head-on and actively improve them.
Now, let’s pick out some of the striking communication stats and themes from the report.
Empower your frontline
As explicitly stated in the report - frontline staff are crucial. Reception and administrative staff often shape clients and potential clients' lasting impression of a firm. As such, the ball must not be dropped at the first play. This is one of the principal reasons a law firm chooses to work with an outsourced communications provider such as Moneypenny.
That first contact must be handled with exceptional professionalism - something that can be compromised by a ‘duel-role’.
As 74% of respondents have negative emotions at the start of a matter, poor handling of an initial enquiry does not lay the foundation for a good client-law firm relationship. The mature firm will ask itself honestly: “Are our clients getting the treatment they need to meet the emotions driving their experience?”. That is to ask, is the frontline reassuring, efficient, professional, and informative?
If the answer is anything other than a wholehearted yes, additional consideration must be given to your client experience, and quickly. Frontline standards must, at the very least, match the standards of the legal advice on offer.
Communicate in the way clients want
There were some loud-and-clear messages delivered in the survey responses regarding communication channels. Chiefly, for 79% of people, the phone is a preferred method to speak with their law firm.
This is despite the rise of digital communication channels such as WhatsApp - yes, even for client-lawyer contact. As touched upon above, it is folly to diminish the importance of this channel.
Over half of respondents expect online chat tools on a law firm's website. A staggering figure when we consider the relatively small number of firms offering this channel on their sites. At Moneypenny, the legal industry is our fastest growing sector for Live Chat take-up. Something that surprised the business and the legal profession equally. But when we consider the specifics of the tool - it’s private, instant, direct, and puts the client in the driving seat of communication - we can understand its popularity.
Embrace online reviews
Another technological advance that’s here to stay is online reviews - whether it’s via Google, TrustPilot, or dedicated reviews sites. Far from being something to be afraid of, online reviews should be leveraged as a means to show off a firm’s credentials, specialisms and the ratings of individual solicitors.
Recent data from ReviewSolicitors showed that over half of negative reviews relate to poor customer service. This is in stark comparison to only a quarter of negative reviews being about cost changes and expectations. The key takeaway here is that to today’s client, how they feel about their chosen law firm is paramount, and how they are treated could very quickly damage or elevate a firm’s reputation.
In summary The results shown in the 'What Clients Want' report demonstrate that people have high expectations of law firms, but perhaps not for the reasons the industry believes.
Step one is easy - understand the wants and needs of today's client. Step two is where the work begins: you need to adapt to meet these 2022 expectations and fast.
This article features in our 2021 What Clients Want Research. For details on how to access the report click here: https://www.lawfirmmarketingclub.com/what-do-clients-want-2021-report