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Practice management: Satisfaction guaranteed

Practice management: Satisfaction guaranteed

By Paddy Oliver

Management Practice & Procedure 

Tips Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Train all partners, solicitors and staff in client satisfaction techniques (not the law). Always try to improve your client satisfaction. Ask clients for their feedback and act on it. You may be losing potential clients by your telephone manner. Make and meet realistic deadlines. Good client service is the key to your practice’s success. Without clients a law firm cannot exist as a viable business venture. This is why lawyers should embrace good client service. Why do lawyers often have a love/hate relationship with their clients? After all, it is the client who chooses to retain the lawyer and to pay for services received. Excelling at client service will produce a satisfied client who is more likely to provide repeat work, refer work, and be less price sensitive. Benefits to the firm will include less stressed partners and staff and greater profitability. Perhaps there is a certain part of the lawyer’s make-up which is ambivalent about client service or legal advice. Herein lies the dichotomy between what a lawyer thinks is good service and what the client thinks. A lawyer tends to consider good service only relates to quality of the specific legal advice given to the client. Whereas the client considers good service to be more than the quality of the legal advice (high quality legal advice is taken for granted by a client), encompassing service issues such as how the client is treated by the lawyer and reception staff, the ease of communication between the client and the firm, prompt return of telephone and written communications, and meeting deadlines. Ask yourself when was the last time you received excellent customer service from either a retail store or another professional? What elements of the customer service impressed you? It may have been the retailer’s helpfulness or the professional’s ability to return a phone call within the time period that they promised. You can translate these elements of customer service into how you and your firm interact with clients. It does not take too much effort or training to equip all members of your firm with basic customer service skills. A simple way to improve client service is to ensure all telephone calls to the firm are answered promptly and politely. This applies to calls answered by reception and by lawyers. Also, do not set yourself, or agree to, unrealistic deadlines as failing to meet said deadlines will be seen by the client as bad service. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. How would you like to be treated in a similar, most likely stressful and potentially expensive, situation? The client knows little of the legal process. You are the lawyer, the highly qualified professional who understands the law and the legal process. A client centred approach will help to ensure the client understands the process and is guided through it with a minimum of anxiety. Putting client’s interests before yours or your firm’s is paramount. Yes, ethical rules enshrine those principles but you must ensure that they are applied in practice across your firm from communication to pricing and billing. You will reap the rewards. Paddy Oliver is managing director Lexcel Consulting.

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