Client Retention Tips for Small Law Firms

Remember that old adage, "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime"? That's the way I think of attorney-client relationships. A lot of law firms spend thousands of dollars every year attracting new clients, while simultaneously neglecting the important art of retaining their existing clients. And study after study has shown that client retention is much more profitable and less costly than client acquisition.

Here are 10 ways to build relationships:

1. Host a Seminar.

As noted in previous editions of this newsletter, seminars are a great way to demonstrate your firm's particular expertise, and to present your firm in an educational rather than marketing (and often confrontational) setting.

2. Write a Newsletter.

Newsletters are an unobtrusive and fairly easy way to communicate on a regular basis with multiple clients. Through your newsletter, you can let your clients know about developments in the firm, success stories, or anything that will keep that positive impression of your firm in your client's head. And email newsletters are a cinch! You can systematically send email newsletters to clients that link back to your Web site. All the information in the newsletter (plus many more things that may be of interest) is contained on site. Integrating your newsletters into your Web site content is the key to making your firm a go-to, 24-hour legal information service provider. For more information, visit FindLaw's Lawyer Marketing.

3. Participate in Relevant Organizations.

Does your firm specialize in the construction industry? Then join the construction trade association and attend local meetings. You can also submit content for organizations with relevant Web sites or newsletters. Cynthia Calvert, an attorney in Washington D.C., wrote in last month and noted: "I write articles to be published on other Web sites with a by-line link to my Web site. Bar associations and other law-related sites are often looking for free content, so it isn't hard to find these opportunities." An excellent way to brand your firm, and let your clients know that you care about their industry!

4. Sponsor a Client (Organization).

Sometimes, it pays to go a step further than mere participation in the right organizations. A key sponsorship in a client's trade association, local merchant group, etc. lets your client know that you want to develop a symbiotic relationship.

5. Be A Resource.

Does your Web site simply list attorney profiles, contact information, and your relevant practice areas? If so, you aren't building relationships with clients through the Internet. Top firms have long realized that their clients do check out their Web sites, and the more information and online resources you provide there, the more the client values and respects your practice.

6. Maintain Face Time.

The fact is, you can apply all of the most amazing technology in the world to keep in touch with clients. But even in today's digital age, a face-to-face meeting is still the most effective way to let your client's know you're thinking of them.

7. Get Feedback and Act on It.

No doubt you do your best to keep your clients happy. But have you ever actually asked them whether there were ways you could improve? Many law firms today are using focus groups and surveys to assess the satisfaction of their clients.

8. Be an Expert on Client Relationships.

OK, so this is a not-so-subtle plug for FindLaw content, but I highly recommend reading every article in FindLaw's section about Client Relations.

9. Spread the News.

You may be working 'round the clock to ensure that your clients are happy, but what about your support staff, other attorneys, or anyone else inside your firm? All of your hard work is for naught if your client-first sentiment isn't imitated throughout the firm.

10. Heed the Words of Emmanuel Kant.

Perhaps you've forgotten your college philosophy class, but Kant is famous for the "categorical imperative." Or, in other words, the concept that one should "do unto others as you would have done unto yourself." Step back and look in the mirror - if you were the client, would you be happy with your firm? If the answer isn't 100% yes, you need to improve the problem-areas immediately.