You’re a lawyer or BD professional.
You get an email from someone.
They heard about you from one of your other clients.
They need help with a legal dispute.
They need it now.
“That’s great,” you tell them. “Why don’t we have a chat?”
You book in a video call.
They’re sceptical at first.
But soon, they’re comfortable enough to talk.
They unload their worries and stresses.
You nod, taking detailed notes.
You talk them through your process, your experience.
You reassure them that while every case is different, this isn’t your first.
They seem unsure.
“Take your time” you say. “Call me if you want to continue.”
They call you the next day.
They want you to take the case.
Time to roll up your sleeves and do what you do best.
Over the next few weeks, you work.
You go the extra mile to solve their legal problem.
You manage expectations.
And you advocate like it’s your first case (even though it isn’t).
After many hours of negotiation and drafting, you secure a good outcome.
It’s a great feeling.
You get back to the office that afternoon.
You try to call the client, but they don’t pick up their phone.
Instead, you leave a message with the good news.
A few days later, you hear from your client.
They send a nice email.
“Thanks so much!” it says.
“Really appreciate it. Wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you.”
The week after, they pay your invoice.
It’s a great feeling.
This is what you went to law school for.
Accounts receives the payment.
You send the file to the archive.
Before you know it, you’re on your next matter.
You take on new clients.
Despite COVID, lockdowns and an office move, it has been a good year.
Things are good.
Then, just before the office closes for the holiday season, you find an old email.
It’s that client.
You reminisce on the work you did for them.
It felt busy then, but it’s nothing compared to how busy you are now.
Now you have twice as many matters and half the time.
And you still have to find new clients to replace old clients.
An endless pipeline.
It’s exciting, but sometimes it feels…tiring.
But there’s a secret.
That client – they’re your next client too.
New business – vs renewed business
In a world of yearly iPhone releases, daily news cycles and 24/7 email access – it is easy for lawyers to fall into a trap.
That trap is to think that the only way to grow is to find new clients.
There is no doubt that growth comes from new clients.
But it is also expensive and time-consuming.
It shouldn’t be the only strategy for firm growth.
That is not sustainable – no matter how energetic or ambitious your team is.
Even if you have a world-class, automated, built-for-legal CRM like Nexl.
That’s a fact.
For our purposes, retaining a client means working with a client more than once.
Retention is as important as acquisition.
This is because of the nature of the law firm business.
You are selling a service.
Your services are expensive and less scalable than a goods business (eg, McDonalds).
McDonalds sells 2 million burgers a day.
No matter how efficient your lawyers are, you cannot serve a million clients a day.
So instead of relying on high volume of customers,
Lawyers must focus on improving the value of their clients.
To increase the value of a client, you need to retain them.
This is good for your client (they have an adviser who knows their needs).
This boosts the firm’s ROI on marketing / BD spend.
And it reduces attorney fatigue (less acquisition, more work).
All of this means better financial performance.
Let’s talk about three ways that you can retain clients.
1 – Build relationships with all decisionmakers
There is an old saying about eggs.
“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”
The idea being that if you “drop” the basket, while some eggs may break (and be lost) some eggs will be safely tucked away in a different basket.
When you work with a client, you shouldn’t just talk to one person.
You need to take a more holistic approach.
For a small business client, that means building a rapport with managers, employees, the GC and the GC’s likely successor.
For an individual, that means impressing the person, their accountant, and other advisers.
There is always more than one person to build relationships with.
Even if the client is a natural person.
You just need to think about the broader picture.
If others can see the value that you offer, they are far more likely to encourage the decisionmaker to retain your services.
They may even request your services in future.
And if your key contact at the client resigns, you’re more likely to keep that client.
Always go out of your way to have multiple touchpoints at every client you work with.
The more touchpoints you have, the stronger your relationship.
The stronger your relationship, the greater the chance that you retain the client.
2 – Provide additional value
Gary Vaynerchuk is a respected marketing expert.
He is also the owner of one of the world’s leading creative and media agencies.
A few years ago, Gary wrote a book about content marketing.
It’s a great book.
Many consider it a must-read for modern content-marketing (which, coincidentally, most law firms are in the business of).
We recommend reading it, even if you aren’t a marketer.
It’s so valuable, in fact, that a key message lies in the title:
“Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.”
This sums up his strategy for winning client work.
Most law firms know that they need to land a “right hook” with a client (the final decision to engage the firm).
The “right hook” is the final move.
However, law firms, companies and brands also need to commit to “jabs”.
“Jabs” are little punches.
Small but consistent moves.
In boxing, jabs don’t end a fight (and they’re not meant to).
Jabs are about patiently engaging with people over time to reduce resistance.
It’s an approach that is critical to client retention.
For a law firm, “jabs” are about bringing the law firm closer to its target audience.
That means providing quality legal content.
Information that guides a client on what they can expect on their journey through the legal system.
What they can expect.
How they can approach their legal problem.
And it allows them to see your expertise first-hand.
This is what makes the “right hook” work.
It builds trust.
In boxing, the “jabs” wear down your opponent’s energy.
In client retention, the “jabs” build trust.
Trust is what wins a client.
See, the whole idea of “jabs” is that you win their trust.
Individual “jabs” aren’t the be-all and end-all.
But they add up.
They help get you closer to the “right hook” moment.
And this brings us to our second point.
You cannot think about client retention in the short-term.
You must think about it long-term.
Retention is a result of a winning combination.
A combination of high-quality content and consistent contact.
You risk being forgotten.
Trust is lost because of memory.
Irrelevant or spammy content?
You won’t be forgotten.
But you may not be remembered for the right reason.
And you won’t be adding to your trustworthiness in the client’s eyes.
You can’t rely on conversion content.
You need to build up trust.
You need to keep up the “jabs” before you can land a “hook”.
That’s a long-term commitment.
It takes time.
Your whole team needs to be aligned on the project.
They need to send a consistent, clear message.
A feature like Nexl’s Relationship Mapping makes a firm-wide “jab” strategy possible.
It makes it easy to have “clean” contact with a client.
That’s because Relationship Mapping is like a 24/7 relationship history with each firm client.
It shows exactly who at the firm has reached out.
It shows when they did so.
And it allows multiple people to nurture one relationship.
It unlocks a seamless client experience.
It sounds simple, but we’ve found that many firms find a difficult part of client retention.
Monitoring a client relationship manually is time consuming.
And lawyers don’t have a lot of spare time.
That’s why Nexl’s Relationship Mapping is data-entry free.
It’s 100% automated.
It makes relationship-building fun and technology-driven rather than slow, tiring, and confusing.
That is a good thing.
We are certain you’ll love it.
We are certain you’ll start working with your clients in a better, more satisfying way.
Just ask our other law firm clients around the world.
3 – Nail your customer service KPIs
So we’ve talked about two things that occur outside of working for the client.
But there’s one retention strategy that law firms need to focus on while working for a client.
It comes down to two words.
Yes, put aside the substantive law for now.
If this article has made its way into the hands of someone at your firm, we are sure you have the chops to give good advice.
Of course, you need to get the law right.
But more than good work, delivering good service is critical.
What’s the difference?
Good work is a good product.
It means reading and applying the law correctly.
It means winning the case.
It means getting the very best outcome in the circumstances.
It’s about what the customer walks away with.
Good service is about how the client feels.
It is about the friendliness of staff.
The responsiveness of your team.
The ease of working with you.
The support you offer beyond the first client interview.
These are about what the customer remembers long after they’ve forgotten about the outcome of their matter.
It’s how they remember “lawyers”.
And it’s a core part of client retention.
So how do you ensure you give good service?
By carefully studying your service KPIs.
Not sure what these are?
Here’s some good ones to think about:
Response time: how long your team takes to contact the client after they ask a question.
Personalisation: how well your team personalises each item to the client.
Onboarding: how long it takes you to get through the formalities of a retainer, cost agreement and matter set up with the client.
Complaints: how many complaints / issues the clients raises with your process. And more importantly, because it is probably unrealistic to expect no complaints, how quickly you resolve any issues.
As you can see, thinking about good service is a profoundly transformative strategy for a law firm.
It turns you from an okay law firm into an excellent law firm.
It makes clients happy.
And it will make your attorneys more effective, efficient and motivated each day.
To ensure that your team executes on its service strategy, Nexl includes an integrated Project Management tool.
It is a powerful collaboration space.
BD staff, lawyers and administrative assistants can all access it through Microsoft Teams.
It turns the firm staff into collaboration champions.
Forget the tired excel spreadsheets.
Lose the long emails.
Nexl’s Project Management just works.
There’s no need to waffle on.
You just go to your browser (or open Microsoft Teams) and click on the Project.
Everything is set out:
Combined with consistent, relevant follow-up contact after a matter – a good service strategy can build immense trust.
And more than a “right hook” asking for more work, it shows that your firm is truly committed to the client’s needs.
It is a genuine strategy that creates results.
Before you read this article, you might have been on the fence about client retention.
You might have struggled to believe that winning new clients is not the only part of firm growth, or that your firm was capable of winning repeat work.
But we’ve given you detailed insights into the 3 pillars of client retention: building relationships with multiple contacts at a client, value-adding content, and nailing customer service.
Together, these strategies give you a path forward into deeper, trusting relationships with your existing clients.
In our next article, we will cover expansion – the process of doing different types of work for your client beyond what you were initially hired to do.