A festive bonus or a lump of coal?
This article was first published in Solicitors Journal on 16 December 2014 and is reproduced by kind permission (www.solicitorsjournal.com)
A close friend of mine, who is a primary school teacher, receives a veritable array of trinkets, gifts and testimonials from her adoring pupils at the end of term in December every year. The presents can be anything from Mars Bars to champagne, but the sentiment is always the same: appreciation.
Now, I wouldn't wish to teach primary school children any more than I would want to stick pins in my eyes; however, I cannot truthfully say that I am not jealous of the recognition she gets for the effort she puts in throughout the year from her clients -sorry, pupils.
When I was growing up my parents had a solicitor. Not even a firm, just one chap who did everything, from wills to conveyancing to providing some complicated advice when a rogue car trader did a disappearing act on my dad's company. He was a regular at their dinner parties, I played with his children and he came to my sister's wedding.
But the reality is that we shouldn't be expecting presents, or even Christmas cards, from our clients any more. The days of a family having just one solicitor are fast disappearing as clients become more consumer-like in their attitude to legal services. Clients want an efficient, good value and commercial service and, more importantly, they want to be able to conveniently shop around for it.
And while building a relationship and trust with an individual solicitor may no longer be commonplace, building a relationship and trust with a firm should be.
With clients increasingly choosing to 'browse' for their solicitors, the client care focus is more and more imperative. We have to be able to offer real added value to the clients, while still keeping the Christmas lights on.
The key to first-class client care is always seeing the client as a multifaceted individual with aspirations and objectives, rather than as a problem to be solved as quickly and cost-effectively as possible and sent on its way. We have to be proactive, not just in our marketing initiatives but in our approach towards clients. Increasingly, firms need to be able to offer a seamless, comprehensive service, encouraging working closely in conjunction with other departments.
We need to demonstrate to our clients that we are professional, empathic, efficient and honest, working towards winning the loyalty that was once commonplace. We cannot wait for clients to come to us any longer.
This leads me to the question that no one will be asking - what do lawyers want for Christmas? No one is asking, of course, because they think they know the answer: money, and lots of it. In my opinion, though, the answer is both universal and simple: happy clients, please. Happy clients make everything seem worthwhile and may even produce a "thank you". While it's not quite a list of why they want to be me when they grow up, a happy client's thank you will do me fine for December 2014 and the year to come.