What Your Client Isn’t Telling You And Why It’s Chasing Away Business
Have you ever had that friend who doesn’t use enough deodorant? You aren’t quite sure how to broach the subject so you say nothing and he is left wondering why nobody wants to spend time with him. Well, my friend, it’s time for us to have a serious discussion about what your clients may not be telling you: your law practice stinks.
Your Law Firm’s Image
I’m not talking about literal stink but rather the odor of unprofessionalism that can give potential clients and even current clients the wrong impression. The fact is, no matter how knowledgeable and diligent you are in the actual practice of law, your appearance goes a long way to determining whether or not people trust you as an attorney and whether or not judges and juries listen to what you have to say.
Two lawyers show up in court. One is dressed in an expensive suit. The other is in shorts, sandals and a stained t-shirt. Both argue their cases equally well. The case is likely to be decided in favor of the well-dressed attorney. If you present a sloppy exterior, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. That may not be fair but it is reality.
Of course you probably already know this. You dress in nice suits. You decorate your office in a manner designed to instill confidence, right down to the obligatory shelf of legal texts you’ve never cracked the spines on. Are you forgetting something?
In order to stay current on trends in the industry I read a number of legal and technology (and legal technology) blogs and websites. Most law offices today probably have some kind of online presence because it’s an easy and inexpensive way to reach new clients. However you have to give your web presence the same attention you give your wardrobe and office furnishings.
I recently came across a lawyer’s blog that looked like it had been written by an eight-year-old. His grammar was poor and his spelling was downright embarrassing. A spell checker can’t catch the difference between “your” and “you’re” but it certainly can point out “yuor”. This man may be a terrific attorney but he isn’t doing himself any favors by making such illiterate posts.
Not everyone can write. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people are verbal and struggle to express themselves with the written word. Find someone in your office who’s a writer. Hire a ghostwriter. For crying out loud, at least use a spell checker and proofread your work before posting it! This applies to all of your correspondence: blogs, emails, letters, court document and even invoices.
Look At Your Billing
Many law firms treat billing as an afterthought. It’s an unpleasant task you can’t avoid if you want to be paid, the broccoli you must eat to get desert. These firms may send out invoice template word documents. More sophisticated practices use billing software, but the applications are outdated or generic rather than tailored the needs of the legal industry. These kinds of invoices tend to have many problems.
- Confusing – A complicated list of itemizations, listed with no particular sense of order, leaves your clients bewildered and irritated. They puzzle through legal jargon. They have to search just to find the one number they really care about: how much they need to pay right now.
- Incomplete – This is a particular problem with generic as opposed to legal billing software. You don’t have expenses organized by matter so something gets left off the invoice. When you discover that you have to bill the client again, but the client has already paid so doesn’t understand why there is another invoice.
- Overbilled – Non-matter-based billing causes this problem as well. You bill John A. Smith’s charges on John B. Smith’s bill. That’s not just sloppy; it’s unethical and may end up drawing the attention of your state bar association.
- Sloppy – Inconsistent margins, randomly changing fonts, charges listed all over the place, and countless typos can make your invoices — and you — look amateurish.
All of these problems send the message you can’t be bothered to do your billing right. An invoice is typically the last communication you have with a client, the last impression you leave. This bad image is even worse if the matter was decided against the client, who might decide your slipshod billing is representative of your legal skill and file a complaint against your practice.
All the correspondence that leaves your office should receive the same attention to detail you give your appearance in court. One way to achieve that is to use the right tools for the job. A specialized legal billing and practice management application like CosmoLex helps you maintain a professional and organized impression from your first meeting to your last invoice. Improve your correspondence to create a more positive, authoritative image and generate more repeat and referral business for your practice.