Client-centered approach in legal practice

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Editor note: This sponsored article was written by Inna Ptitsyna, the PR Manager at Lawrina

The idea that client-centered law firms are more successful is not a new one. Forward-thinking lawyers have been taking this approach for years.

It’s now more important than ever that law firms that want to stay competitive take a client-centered approach.

Client-centered lawyering offers techniques that motivate client participation. This was first adopted in legal clinics. In earlier times, the clients delegated the work to the lawyers and completely trusted them with their cases. The clients did not have much active involvement in the case. Therefore, client-centered legal management is aimed to create an interactive dynamic space that facilitates developing mutual trust and respect between the client and the lawyer.

“Solving client problems and offering solutions for problems that they can’t foresee, not just offering what the legal service provider has done for other clients.”

Lucy Bassil, Legal Operations Consultant and Legal Innovation Advisor

Running a client-centered law firm means putting your clients at the center of your thinking. This goes beyond the legal deliverable you provide; being client-centered means truly putting yourself in your client’s shoes and looking at the experience of hiring a lawyer and going through a legal matter from their point of view. It also involves thinking through how you can provide a good client experience in a way that’s efficient for your firm.

“To take a design approach, one of the key shifts for lawyers is to embrace new mindsets. The approach brings fresh lenses with which to see our work, our challenges, and our resources. The mindsets of a designer diverge from those of a traditional lawyer. Adopting these new perspectives can be painful but revelatory for those interested in improving the legal system.”

Margaret Haagan, author of Law by design, Director of the Legal Design Lab

 

An excellent approach  to be more client-oriented, is using legal design principles in your work. Going through a design process can lead you from an idea to a strong, vetted, grounded concept of what product you should build. It’s the first cycle of actions to figure out what you should be building, how to make it great for your target users, and how to scale it.

Transparency in communication with clients

The client-centered approach improves the lawyer’s understanding of the clients’ experiences, emotions, and perspectives, which enables adding more pertinent material in building a case. This holistic method puts the client in the center of decision-making. It also ensures the likelihood of success and attracts prospective referrals for the firm. It also helps to develop the personal relationship between the client and the lawyer.

“What steps a lawyer team needs to take in order to be client-oriented? Listen, listen, listen. Work with the client to really understand their pain points, and together design solutions. Be creative and open to doing things differently.”

Lucy Bassil, Legal Operations Consultant and Legal Innovation Advisor

That is why this relationship requires transparency in communication, when your client understands the situation with his/her case, all risks, and possible solutions. Direct communication with the client prevents confusion when dealing with legal matters. It helps in facilitating the information to transfer between the client and the lawyer in a crystal-clear way without any ambiguity.

Besides, the lawyer can understand the client’s unstated feelings and vaguely expressed emotions only through clear communication. Above all, the lawyers can provide adequately articulated advice by being empathetic.

They can also elicit accurate timelines and information through properly framed questions with the help of direct communication.

How to sell your clients value not just your hours 

“Design Mindsets are the lenses that we wear to be more creative, user-centered, 

and agile.”

Margaret Haagan, author of Law by design, Director of the Legal Design Lab

You must sever the link between the number of hours you work and the amount of money you earn. To accomplish so, you’ll need to alter your focus from selling time to selling value. Put less emphasis on the time that a job takes and place more on the value that your customer will receive.

When your law firm makes a decision, evaluates a new tool, or tries a new process, do you think about how it will impact your clients and their experience? Thinking of your clients in all things is the first critical step towards running a more client-centered practice.

It’s important to innovate and make changes in your practice, but each time you do, ask yourself, “what will this mean for my client?”

Better yet, look at your existing processes, tools, and setups, and how those impact the client experience. Do you send multiple forms to clients when you could be sending a single form? Are your intake forms easy to understand, and do they ask for only relevant information? How fast do you respond to client requests?

Wherever you see a gap, look for an opportunity to improve the experience clients have with your firm. As we could see from the fundamental Understanding The Legal Consumer: A Journey Map by Martindale-Avvo, the journey map visually tells the story of what a person experiences while using a product or solving a problem, providing context and establishing empathy.

There is difference between selling your hours and value:

  • Value

When you sell value in the way, you focus your clients on what they really want: results: more sales, more profit, more visibility and recognition, lower costs, and more ease. 

  • Time

When you sell your time, on the other hand, you focus your client on what they dislike: spending money, evaluating your performance, and worrying about being taken advantage of.

When selling value, you must first determine the value you provide to your customer. You also concentrate on how you can supply them with even more value and how to express this to them. This is how you get hired to undertake follow-up work for them.

You can feel the influence right away. It becomes more enjoyable to do business. You have the authority to raise prices. You work with clients who don’t require persuasion. You don’t have to justify what you’re selling because they obviously want it.

What kind of value do you bring to the table?

You can’t sell value if you don’t know what value you deliver, what benefits you provide your customers, and what sets you apart from your competition. You’re forced to sell your time.

You should find out if you are unsure about the value or benefits you bring. But how do you do it? The solution is straightforward. Call your customers and ask, “Why do you do business with me instead of someone else?”.

This article is an extract of the free ebook Lawyer’s Work and Productivity in a New Normal. Written by Lawrina team and top legal innovators, this ebook contains 80+ pages of recent researches and brand-new approaches to lawyer’s work, productivity and effective communication in a post-pandemic. 

Lawrina is a legal portal that provides free access to U.S. law and builds a community around lawyers. 

Lawrina’s mission is to improve legal practices in the changing world. This mission influences how the portal approaches its content and what it believes is important to present. 

Innovation in the sphere of law is not only about technology. It is also about the experience, practices, and communication lawyers should adhere to when cooperating with clients. It is about legal systems designed for both end-users and legal practitioners, changing the Experience of Law itself.

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