There is a running joke in our culture about used car salesmen and lawyers. It implies that neither can be trusted. Whether or not it’s true is irrelevant when it comes to competing for market share. All that matters is that people perceive used car salesmen and lawyers in a certain way. Overcoming such negative perceptions is an integral part of practicing law in the modern era.
Gone are the days when towns only had a single law office to represent multiple neighborhoods. According to 2018 data from the American Bar Association, the number of active attorneys increased by more than 15% in the decade ending December 31, 2017. At that time, the ABA counted more than 1.3 million attorneys practicing across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
That is a lot of lawyers. So how does one compete? The starting point is overcoming negative public perceptions. To that end, there are three key strategies every law firm should concentrate on.
1. Rock-Solid Communication
Nothing creates mistrust more quickly than a lack of communication. A client who reaches out to her attorney but gets no response for days is tempted to begin asking herself what the attorney is hiding. At the very least, she will assume that her lawyer doesn’t care enough about her case to get back to her promptly. That’s no way to build trust.
Rock-solid communication is the foundation of any productive relationship. Every attorney should know and understand this fundamental truth. Every attorney should make a commitment to putting communication at the top of the list of priorities. Communicating with clients should never take a backseat to less important tasks.
Today’s lawyers have an advantage over their counterparts from a few decades ago. They have access to a greater number of communication channels including social media, e-mail, telephone, online chat, and written communication. A law firm that utilizes a case management application like NuLaw even has access to a built-in communication portal that centralizes collaboration between client, attorney, and staff.
2. Greater Accessibility
How we communicate in the digital era is not the only thing that has changed. Schedules have also changed. Fewer people work 9 to 5 in downtown offices. Modern workers have three primary shifts to choose from. Many workers also have access to flexible scheduling, meaning they don’t always work a standard shift.
What does this mean to the attorney? It means that the 9-to-5 schedule is no longer set in stone. It means that attorneys need to be more accessible to their clients. They don’t have to be ready to answer the phone or respond to an e-mail 24 hours a day, but it would certainly help to be more flexible in their scheduling.
Law firms can improve accessibility without increasing hours by adopting cloud-based case management software. A cloud-based application is accessible to attorneys and clients around-the-clock. Even if an attorney is not available to speak in person, online resources can meet many client needs.
3. Creating a Customer Experience
The third key strategy involves changing the attorney’s mindset. In the modern era, clients are not merely people attorneys represent. They are paying customers. As such, attorneys need to treat clients the same way they expect to be treated by restaurants, hotels, retail merchants, etc.
Customer experience is the main driving force in modern business. Attorneys need not be afraid of it. They can treat clients like customers and still practice law as it should be practiced. It just requires a new way of thinking.
And now you know. That’s how attorneys compete by overcoming negative public perceptions.