A guest blog from Brian O’Neill from Client Communications
It’s quite sad in these days of modern communications that clients still don’t know what their lawyer can do for them. That’s not the fault of the client. It’s down to the lack of effective communication by the law firm of the services they provide.
To demonstrate this, I heard a story the other day about a conversation between a solicitor and his client. It went a little bit like this.
Tom bought his house around 5 years ago. He and his wife, Jessica, had started a family and now needed another bedroom so it was time for a change. They’d put their house on the market and an offer had been made. It was time to instruct a solicitor.
By coincidence, Tom had begun clearing out papers and documents he’d kept in the cupboard in his study in readiness for the move. He came across a letter from the lawyer they’d used when he and Jessica bought the house, so he decided to contact them to find out if they’d act for him in their sale and purchase. He was glad he’d found the letter because he couldn’t remember who they’d used for the legal work when they’d bought the house. Tom arranged an appointment to see the solicitor.
When he was sitting in the reception area, Tom noticed there were a lot of brochures about other kinds of work the law firm did. He hadn’t realised they did anything other than buying and selling houses for clients.
He was shown into the meeting room and was re-introduced to the solicitor who had acted for him and Jessica when they’d bought their house. The solicitor asked him how he was and how things had been for him since they’d purchased their property. Tom said things had been pretty good, that he and Jessica had started a family and now had a little boy who was 4 and their daughter who was almost 2 – and explained that that was why they were looking to move house – they needed another bedroom!
Tom did mention that shortly after they’d bought the house his mother had passed away. She was a widow and Tom had been appointed to deal with the estate. He said it was quite a large estate because, in addition to the family home, his parents had owned a holiday home in the West Country, had quite a bit in investments and a villa in Spain, all of which had to be disposed of. It had taken quite a while to work through it and it cost of the legal work was expensive. The lawyer enquired why Tom hadn’t thought to contact him to deal with this. Tom looked puzzled and said “I didn’t know you did that. When we bought the house with you, we thought you only dealt with buying and selling houses”.
Tom went on to mention that two years ago, Jessica had been involved in a car accident where she’d been injured and her car written off. She was off work for about 4 months. Tom said she was now back to full health and it took the lawyers who processed the claim for her nearly a year to get a settlement. The lawyer asked him why he hadn’t thought about instructing him. Again, Tom replied “I didn’t know you did that kind of work”.
As they were talking about the mortgage for the new house, Tom mentioned that he’d set up a new business nearly 3 years ago and it was growing from strength to strength. He said there was quite a bit of legal work involved in getting off the ground – he had to set up the company, arrange with a lawyer to create terms and conditions for their contracts as well as contracts for their employees – then there was the lease of the offices and warehouse. Tom said the lawyer he’d used for this work made a pretty penny out of it in fees. The lawyer replied that he had colleagues in his firm who did all of those kinds of work. Tom, again, replied, “I didn’t know you did that. I thought you only dealt with houses”.
The lawyer agreed to look after their house sale and purchase and Tom left the office. Whilst he was driving home, Tom got to thinking about the meeting and the conversation he’d had with the lawyer. As a businessman, he was constantly promoting his products and services to his existing customers as well as trying to win business from new customers. In fact, he took the view that if he had satisfied customers and he kept in touch with them, he’d easily win more business because the customers had already purchased products and services from him. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t heard from the law firm he’d used to buy his house in all the time they’d been living in it. If he’d known about the range of services they could provide and they’d kept in touch, chances are that they’d have had all the business he’d needed to be dealt with. Come to think of it, Tom realised that he hadn’t heard from the other solicitors he’d used either! He thought lawyers must think law firms are different from normal businesses and they don’t need to keep in touch with clients they’ve dealt with.
It was a complete fluke that Tom had found the letter from the solicitor who had acted in his house purchase. If he hadn’t found that, he’d probably have asked some of his colleagues who he knew had moved house recently which law firm they’d used – and would have probably used them instead.
The moral of this story is that law firms are businesses – they are in the business of delivering legal services. To do that, they not only have to continue to win business from new clients, they also must keep in touch with their existing clients. By doing so, they build loyalty and win repeat business from their clients as well as through referrals to their clients’ family and friends.
It’s never been easier to keep in touch with clients as it is now. Email marketing and eNewsletters for law firms are tried and tested ways of keeping in touch with clients on a regular basis between transactions – and they’re affordable!
If you would like to know more or find out how to keep in touch with your clients, get in touch with us now. You can call Brian O’Neill of Client Communications on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.clientcommunications.co.uk., email him at
Brian O’Neill, Director, practised as a solicitor for more than 20 years. Brian was one of the founding Directors of Glasgow Solicitors Property Centre. After moving out of private practice, Brian worked with an IT company that developed software for the legal profession, becoming its Chief Executive. He also picked up an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, Graduate School of Business along the way. Since 2005, Brian has been providing a wide range of consultancy services to law firms and is the founding director of Client Communications. Brian is acutely aware that law firms have never been very good at promoting their services to their existing clients, far less trying to promote them to prospective clients. His objective is to help small and medium-sized firms to build loyalty and win repeat business from their existing clients!