15 Ways to Add Value for Clients
Pricing legal services is more than a budgeting exercise that firms use to set hourly rates. Pricing of services must be an integrated part of the firms overall marketing strategy. Yet few firms, if any, understand and use pricing as an effective lever in their competitive strategy to survive and grow.
A market has a sense of value that exists independently of the costs of production and the costs of alternative solutions. Fees must come out of your vision of what you consider good client service to be. Then, if you can deliver value-added services, most clients will pay the fees that are current in your marketplace—plus a premium.
Make Client Satisfaction the Center of Your Service Package
How do you increase the value of your services? Here are 15 ways.
1. Don’t just meet your clients’ expectations. Exceed them.
2. Ask questions to determine all the needs of your clients, not just their legal needs.
3. Understand and define your clients’ objectives.
4. Develop a case plan or trans-action plan for each client. Give the client a copy.
5. Review, and make sure the client understands, the risks in any procedure or action you recommend.
6. Define the client’s responsibilities.
7. Define the lawyer’s responsibilities.
8. Have each client sign a representation agreement. Make sure that the client understands the agreement and the fee.
9. Recommend commercially acceptable solutions.
10. Return all phone calls promptly.
11. Shower clients with regular communications and updates.
12. Greet your clients in the reception area, and make sure they feel at home.
13. Reinforce the elements of your service strategy with an annual retreat for everyone in the firm.
14. Reward employees for being client advocates.
15. Keep all promises.
Communicate Value to Clients
How can you communicate to clients the value that you add to their services? There are a number of methods, but here’s one example. One jurisdiction has a commercial lease checklist that covers 16 pages of text. When a client retains a lawyer to do a commercial lease, the lawyer can give the client a copy of the checklist and ask the client to review it for items to include in the lease. This lets the client understand what must be done to draft the lease, and it helps the client see what it takes to generate a final work product. The same technique can be used for trusts and estates and other areas of practice.
The point is, clients don’t always know what benefits you provide. Thus, you must know how to call their attention to your good works.
Be a Model of Service
Satisfying clients means hundreds of things. You must define what it means to you—and how to achieve it. This requires a firmwide model and understanding of how to communicate with clients. Everyone who works in a law firm needs this skill. If everyone understands the principles and receives the necessary training, a client service system can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like a heat-seeking missile, which constantly adjusts its flight path toward its target, each person in the firm then attunes his or her actions to the firm’s model of service.
Anyone with a law degree can practice law. To succeed, you must offer more than a law degree. Add value by making the client an active participant in your service system. You can then price your services accordingly.
TIP: Use your office technology to generate value-added services.
Some lawyers, for example, will sit down at their computers and generate a document draft with the client present—a tactic that fulfills the client’s need for promptness.
Adapted from Chapter 7 of Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour, 2 nd edition, edited by James A. Calloway and Mark A. Robertson (American Bar Association, 2002). It is the new edition of the best-selling Win-Win Billing Strategies, which was edited by Richard C. Reed.