Gone are the days when lawyers assisted clients with their legal problems and moved on to the next. Unfortunately, many of today's attorneys mistakenly believe that they only draw in clients when someone needs legal help or if they are on the client's radar at the right time. However, even when there isn't legal trouble brewing or pending litigation, attorneys must put effort into fostering relationships, maintaining a visible profile, and providing services and insights to current and potential clients.
While a "fix it and forget it" approach to legal clients might have worked in the past and may seem logical within a law practice, today's legal clients want and deserve more. Client development is vital to nearly every lawyer's business strategy, regardless of their niche and whether they realize it.
What is Client Development?
Client development is a strategy to cultivate and develop relationships with your regular and prospective clients. It often involves tracking trends, opportunities, and competitors. In addition, it shows a vested interest in your clients and their perception of your services.
In the legal realm, clients don't care about what you do. Instead, they care about how your actions will help them accomplish their goals or prevent their problems. So, for example, your clients may care only about how many cases you have litigated but rather about your ability to negotiate a settlement to achieve their goal of avoiding a trial.
Client development is also about identifying problems and providing solutions before the client realizes the problem. Being in tune with your clients' wants and needs before they become aware of them and offering help goes a long way in building trust and relationships.
Effective client development takes clients on a unique journey which results in the following:
Enhanced trust in your services
Motivation to use your services
Strangers turned into friends
Increased understanding of their business
Their increased awareness of your business
The Benefits of Client Development
Client development has many benefits. It helps you keep clients and have return business and helps with word-of-mouth advertising. Consider just a handful of other benefits below.
Maintaining your clients is often the key to career growth in the legal industry because:
At many firms, having a book of business or exhibiting a solid ability to develop one is a prerequisite to making partner.
Originating client work increases compensation.
It enhances the ability to move laterally.
Having clients provides greater autonomy over your career and personal life since you aren't as reliant on others for your work.
Building Your Reputation and Brand
Maintaining contact with clients, particularly when they aren't facing legal dilemmas, shows that you are and are there for them, even in good times. You increase client trust when you cultivate relationships and show that you care. Increasing client trust helps build awareness of your brand and gives you a trustworthy and caring reputation. Therefore, staying in touch with clients, even during quiet times, is crucial.
Of course, you typically want an ongoing strategy for bringing in new clients. Still, there's a lot to be said about maintaining current clients. While this will only fit some areas of law, it works with many.
Researcher Frederick Reichheld of Bain and Co., who also invented the net promoter score, found that increasing your client retention rate by as little as five percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. Combine that with the fact that it's approximately 5 to 25 times cheaper to keep existing clients instead of finding new clients, and it's simple to see why having a strategy to develop your existing client base can save you money and increase your ROI.
Start Somewhere and Start Today
Many attorneys and law practices make the mistake of putting off client development efforts because they still need a clear plan. Unfortunately, it's common for attorneys to want everything planned out and their client development strategy to be perfect before implementing it.
However, it's better to start with imperfect client development plans than to wait around and ignore client development until you think you have the perfect plan. By not putting in some effort now, you could already be missing out on the numerous benefits of client development within the legal industry. Instead, take small steps, even imperfect ones, and evaluate the results. Then, recalibrate your efforts and continue to move forward with client development.
Meranda Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the Denver legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and small law firms helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on business development and marketing strategy. Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.