Quality Client Service Standard For Law Offices

by Linda Oligschlaeger

In the legal business, it goes without saying that quality legal advice and representation is very important to clients. However, the legal business is also heavily service-based, which means even if the client had disappointing results with their legal matter, the firm can still maintain a high client satisfaction level because of the excellent service to the client.

Studies show that it costs seven times more to bring a new client to the firm than it does to keep a current client and have that client send you referrals. Firms who live by a very specific Quality Client Service Standard will set themselves apart from others. Word-of-mouth about the firm's professional and courteous service will make its way through the community.

What is a Quality Client Service Standard?

A Quality Client Service Standard is a definite routine that the firm lawyers and staff use to interact with clients and provide services. It's a commitment to providing exemplary service in a courteous manner. It can be simple and uncomplicated. Most of the elements of the standard are the basics of courteous service that oftentimes are lost in the day-to-day routines of busy work schedules. There are countless law firms who can provide legal services, but that number narrows when quality services are coupled with the highest degree of courtesy and professionalism.

What should be included in a Quality Client Service Standard?

Each firm should customize their own standard depending upon the type of practice, the number of employees, and their own philosophies. In considering the development of your firm's Quality Client Service Standard, you might consider having a friend call your office as a new client to see what kind of impression your staff makes on a potential new client and if s/he was treated with courtesy. Here are some elements that could be a starting point in developing a Quality Client Service Standard:

  • Define proper telephone protocol including how the telephone is answered. Oftentimes, staff is not even aware that some of their well-intended comments might not be well received.
  • Define how new and existing clients are greeted when they come into the office.
  • Determine how clients should be addressed on the phone or in the office. Everyone likes to be called by their name.
  • Introduce clients to staff so they know everyone on your team.
  • Schedule so that clients do not have a long wait, perhaps offer refreshments. Provide helpful information in the waiting area. If there will be a delay, notify the client as quickly as possible.
  • The general appearance of the office should be tidy and organized. If your office is piled high with papers and files, consider meeting the client in a conference room or other location. If other clients' files are in view in your office, this may make the client uneasy about others peering at their confidential information from across the desk.
  • Develop a procedure for staff to handle clients who are upset or rude so staff is prepared and knows what to do when this comes up.
  • Develop a policy to give uninterrupted attention to clients when meeting with them.
  • Staff should be careful not to discuss other clients' matters or gossip to where it could be overheard by a client who is waiting.
  • Always apologize when something goes wrong. Clients are much more likely to understand with an apology because everyone makes mistakes.
  • Develop good client intake procedures to collect and organize client information.
  • Develop forms for internal use in the office to stay organized.
  • Offer videotapes to be viewed in the office or taken home about what a client might expect in a deposition or as a witness.
  • Provide the client with a folder with your firm information to collect all the information about their case. The folder will likely be kept and looked for when the client is in need of further services.
  • Develop a system to communicate on a regular basis so that clients won't have to guess what's happening on their matter. Let them know even if nothing new is happening on their case.
  • Make a commitment and establish an organized work schedule to do what you say you will when you say you will. Avoid over promising.
  • Lawyers or staff should never give the impression that you're to busy to answer calls or complete their work.
  • Develop a policy on discussing fees and collection policies at the beginning of the attorney-client relationship and reduce the agreement to writing.
  • Billings should be sent out monthly to avoid any surprises. All billings should be reviewed before they go out to catch errors.
  • Develop a firm policy to return all phone calls and e-mail messages within 24 hours or have someone on staff to return calls on your behalf.
  • Send a welcome letter to the client when hired.
  • Send a thank you letter to the client when the case is concluded along with a quick survey or ask for feedback about your firm's service. Use the information to improve your Quality Client Service Standard.

How to implement and practice a Quality Client Service Standard  

Involve staff in developing your Quality Client Service Standard. Train new staff members or lawyers so everyone is well aware of the standards. Your QCSS should be in writing and revisited at least annually. Schedule a meeting with staff during lunch or before or after regular office hours to review. You may consider displaying the key elements in your QCSS in your office waiting area as a constant reminder and to let clients know of your commitment to courteous and quality service. Or, you may include a copy of your QCSS in the client's folder to take home and review.

The elements of a good Quality Client Service Standard are basically simple, but they are very important when it comes to making a good impression of your firm and maintaining client satisfaction. Busy and stressful days in the office can cause courtesy to slip, but when a strong commitment is made to live and practice the standards every day, they become good habits that become second nature.