After over 15 years of practicing law and being fortunate to own my own law firm for most of that time, I began to ponder what clients really look for in selecting a law firm. Last year brought businesses many challenges that we never would have imagined we would face when 2020 started. With these challenges, came a lot of time to think and truly understand the business we are involved in. While fees are always important, I came away with a few other thoughts I believe to be key ingredients for a successful law firm.
Timeliness. When I started practicing on my own in 2006, I was 100% convinced clients wanted to get as much advice as possible and pay as little as they could while doing so. While that may be true for a handful of clients, what I have truly learned is that clients want to make sure you are ready, willing and able to work on their case ASAP. Most clients understand that getting work done in a New York minute is almost impossible, but they also want to make sure their case is never put on the backburner. Each client has their own legal issue that needs to be addressed and they expect to be treated as such. Many times, attorneys make the mistake of creating their own timeline and not actually listening to the client and what their timeline is. If the attorney listens to the client, asks the hard question of what the client’s timeline is and then communicates to the client the realistic delivery date of the work, the client is much more apt to understand a delay. It is incumbent on the attorney to get work done on time as the client is not only paying for our expertise but for timely work.
Responsiveness. While this seems so simple, it is one of the largest complaints with attorneys. Clients simply want to know what is going on with their case and that is not an unreasonable request. At PLG, we have a simple rule – all emails and phone calls shall be responded to within 24 hours. While this seems easy to do, it is sometimes in practice very difficult as attorneys and legal staff are typically very busy with ongoing work. It is imperative that all attorneys understand that the key to having a good attorney-client relationship is answering your client when they call or email you. Sometimes it is as simple as saying you do not have an update. Attorneys must remember that while we have hundreds if not thousands of clients, our client only has one case – the one for which they hired us. Do not let our busy days get in the way of our duty of responding to clients.
Quality Work. All clients want their attorney to be the best – and they should. While it is easy for an attorney to say they are doing a great job, the ultimate judge is the client. Too many times lawyers have over-promised and under-delivered. In my earlier years, I was so worried about just getting the work done, there would be times that I missed details. As PLG has grown we have seen the type of work we do change along with the expectations of our clients. They want to not only know they received the highest quality of work, but they want to see it. Most clients have dealt with more than one attorney in their lifetimes, so they have the ability to compare the work of several attorneys. The legal industry for the most part prides itself on quality work but usually through their own eyes and not the clients. It is important for us to understand what quality means to our clients and strive to exceed that standard all the time. There is no alternative to good quality work. It makes us better and challenges our industry to up its standards.
While this is not an exhaustive list of qualities a good law firm should have, it is a great foundation on which to build a law firm. Each attorney should be constantly striving to ensure they are taking steps in their daily work to become better stewards for their clients. At PLG, we take these qualities very seriously and make every effort to ensure our team understands the importance of making the client first.