Justifiably or not, the legal industry and lawyers have been labeled to a degree with some negative attributes. Everyone knows the stereotypes and has heard lawyer jokes.
Changing that reputation is important, and it can be done one lawyer at a time. For example, being approachable for clients and prospective clients can make a real difference in how lawyers are perceived.
Adding value for clients matters. Communicating clearly the work that is being done, and showing value at every opportunity helps. Fixed fees and doing what’s possible to increase the predictability of the cost of services can also be a big step.
Keeping the connection with clients throughout every matter and building a relationship
Finally, adding value can go beyond day to day legal work. Getting involved in the community, being client centric, not billing a client for a six-minute phone call, being mindful of costs to clients are all excellent ways to change the perceptions, on
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The number one complaint most people cite regarding lawyers and law firms has to do with communication, or more accurately, the lack of communication. Return calls. Never give a client a reason to feel ignored. Basic customer service will set a lawyer apart from much of the competition. A recent Clio study showed that more than 60% of lawyers and/or law firms did not respond to inquiries – email, phone, etc. – that were at the front end of the firm or lawyers intake process.
Change Reputation by Changing Perspective
Change the perspective of clients … viewing clients as not just clients, but as friends. Talk to clients, don’t talk down to clients. Take an interest in a client’s family and life outside of work. This leads to better understanding and stronger relationships. And keeping in touch with clients even when there is not an active matter is an excellent way to strengthen client relationships and can lead to new matters. Keep an eye on client websites – or through Google news alerts – to stay current on those clients and give a lawyer a reason to reach out to a client.
Firms can create a client-centric, approachable culture that can do much to create a positive image of its lawyers.
In the end, it takes a deliberate, intentional effort to change the reputation of one lawyer, or one law firm. While we can’t change perceptions of the entire legal industry, we can “clean up our own corner” of the industry and create a more positive image of the lawyer and the legal industry.