“My overcoats sell my overcoats.”
How simple is that.
But of course buried within those five words is a multitude of issues that are particularly apposite for running and growing a legal practice:
- The staff you employ;
- The training and development you provide to them;
- Your premises;
- Your stationery;
- Your staffs attire;
- The way people answer the phone;
- How much you charge;
- Whether you mean what you say and say what you mean;
- Whether you over deliver on service or it is merely Ho Hum;
- If you are providing value in abundance;
- Do people know you, like you and trust you;
- The follow up once you have completed the job;
- Staying close to the client; and
- Fundamental to the tenor of the piece, are you generating word of mouth (WOM) referrals.
I have had numerous discussions with lawyers who talk endlessly about the quality of their service and believe that in delivering the very best service that should be enough to generate additional work. In some cases, not all, there is a degree of arrogance amongst lawyers who believe that simply doing the job should be more than enough to satisfy and retain the client for the long term.
However, without wishing to make crass generalisations, our expectations as consumers are such that we are incredibly difficult to please and whilst there is an issue with us too often accepting sub-standard service without demur, when it comes to paying for a premium service (which is how legal services are perceived) the expectations are stratospheric.
If that is right then we can hardly be surprised with clients who complain even about the smallest of items e.g. not producing a correct bill (one of the most common mistakes lawyers make).
If the provision of legal services is really going to be the centrepiece of growing your legal practice, then you need to look at the outer limits of what you can do.
The reason that I keep referring to Seth Godin’s book The Dip and the message that he espouses to be “The Best in the World” is that is how you must view your firm. Are you the Best at what you do, period?
Take an organisation or experience that has WOWed you.
What did it feel like?
Simply put, people cared about you. And they radiated a love of their job. It was pure magic.
Attitude counts for everything. Even if you find it hard to deal with an over-demanding client – and we have had all had them – you have to be prepared to fake it sometimes. In truth you would like to tell the client a few home truths but in the long term there will only be one winner.
One of the things that holds back all law firms is the pedestrian speed with which they implement change. This has to stop.
Too many meetings, committees and hierarchical chains simply hold the firm back from realising its potential. Those people that do step forward with ideas stop contributing after a while because nothing gets acted upon.
Managing Partners have to take much greater leadership in this area. They have to treat the service issue as paramount, and not the profit of the firm (which is internal facing). And this is not an exercise in playing lip service to something for the sake of it. Get rid of the cheesy strap lines. Come up with some real innovative ideas e.g. pay us what you think we are worth and reward people who go the extra mile. Too often firms tolerate sub-standard service for fear of losing a rainmaker and their clients but this is a poor excuse. No one should be above the firm.
At the end of the day the proof of the pudding is in the number of clients you retain, the frequency with which they buy your legal services and how much they spend. And if you are lucky enough to be recommended then these potential clients are worth their weight in gold. They are effectively pre-sold on you and your firm and are almost guaranteed to become a new client.
If service is your thing then attack it from top to bottom with zeal, energy and passion until you can be certain that you have something to be truly proud of. Of course, much like Rome it won’t happen overnight but start now and examine every nook and cranny of what you do. If you think you could do it better then do so.
~ Julian Summerhayes ~