Law Firm Marketing – Becoming Client Centric

The Client Experience

Receiving exceptional service is always a memorable experience. It can make a person feel valued. And news of exceptional service spreads fast. It’s talked about to friends and family and even eulogized to strangers. It can transcend the ordinary and take on an almost mythical form. This is especially true when ordinary things are done in extraordinary ways.

Years ago, I had to fly to Bangkok on a business trip. After a long, trying taxi ride in rush-hour traffic, I finally checked into my hotel, tired and hungry. I dropped my luggage in the room and went down-stairs to get some dinner. An hour later, when I returned, I found my luggage neatly unpacked–shirts folded, pants hung up, ties carefully dispersed along the racks. Almost immediately, I began to relax. I involuntarily breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I looked into the bathroom and saw something I’ll never forget. The items from my overnight kit had been neatly arranged by the sink,?and someone had actually cleaned my hairbrush. All of the hair strands had been removed and the bristles were glistening. But the coup de grace was this: Resting in the center of the bristles was a beautiful white petal.
After more than ten years, I can still see this image. This one experience–this unexpected gesture that went beyond exceptional service–left me with a whole new understanding of what it means to put a client first.

When I returned home and people asked about Thailand, I invariably told them about that small white petal on my hairbrush. Today, when I think of great hotels, I think of the Hotel Oriental. It is the standard by which I judge all other hotels.

In the universe of companies, only a few consistently reach extraordinary levels of service. Studies have shown that companies that do reach such levels share certain fundamental values and organizational traits.

Marketing a Service

There is a fundamental distinction between marketing a product and marketing a service. Products are tangible. They either work as represented or they don’t. Products can be returned or exchanged. We can touch and feel a product before we decide to buy it; rarely is this the case with a service.

Services are meant to be experienced, not ordered from catalogs. Serv-ices are profoundly personal in nature and our response to them is often emotionally driven. A service relation-ship, especially a professional service relationship, challenges the provider to be an expert in serving people.

Think about the ways buyers perceive “value” generally. When we buy products, we rely mostly on objective criteria. For products like shampoo and stereos, determining objective value is fairly simple. A large bottle of shampoo delivers more product than a small one, so we are justified in paying more for the large one. A stereo system that has more features is said to contain more value than one that has fewer features. Product features, quality and quantity are all critical factors in the determination of value. Service, however, is far more nebulous–and is therefore much more challenging to define and measure.

Service Is a Process, Not an End

One reason service is so difficult to measure is because it’s so subjective. It is experiential–we can feel it and see it, but defining it is another matter. Perhaps it’s a little like what the Supreme Court wrote about pornography: It may be hard to define, but we know it when we see it.

Truly great firms–those with legendary status–are always striving to reach greater levels of service for their clients. Fundamental to such firms is the understanding that service is a never-ending process driven by a specific mind-set. These firms know that while they must always try to reach higher levels of service, they can never assume they have achieved the highest level. There is always a higher level to strive for, and standing still squelches the pursuit of excellence. Either a firm continues to reach for higher service levels or it has abandoned the pursuit. There is no middle ground.

Most firms revolve around the desires and needs of their partners. For service-driven firms, just the opposite is true–not because these firms have partners who enjoy a higher sense of purpose, but because they have a higher sense of business smarts. For them, everything revolves around the client. And as you might expect, the benefits have a way of coming back to the partners. Consistently delivering increasingly higher levels of service to clients builds the types of returns that keep a firm thriving.

There is no quick and easy recipe for becoming a service-driven firm. There is no secret formula for meeting–and exceeding–your clients’ needs. But one of the best ways to find out how your firm can provide exceptional service for your clients is, strangely enough, one of the most frequently ignored: listening to what your clients need–being client-centric instead of firm-centric.

You may be convinced that your best clients have been attracted by the stature of your firm–by its size or its range of specialties. But the truth is that it’s not what you think you’re offering that counts, but rather what the clients are experiencing that matters most.

The Emotional Side

Providing a renowned level of service to clients requires paying attention and being sensitive to the emotional side of legal trouble.

Lawyers who pay attention to clients’ subjective experiences are able to expand the scope of legal and practical options available to their clients, which can result in the lawyers becoming better problem solvers.
Old marketing models were based on a number of false assumptions about what influences people’s decisions. Now that we know more about how the mind works, we have a unique opportunity to apply this knowledge to the goal of meeting our clients’ real needs as opposed to the needs we merely assume they have.
In our legal training, we are taught the paramount importance of words and logic. Even in the emotional setting of trial, most skilled attorneys–while highly attuned to the emotional reactions of juries–ultimately almost always rely on the persuasive power of logic, words and reason to win their cases.

Today, neuroscience is providing important insights into the ways people interpret information and the degree to which “thinking” is used to influence our decisions. Lawyers’ emphasis on words is based largely on the false assumption that most of our thinking takes place in our conscious minds. In fact, recent brain science research reveals that just the opposite is true: As much as 95 percent of our thinking actually takes place at the subconscious level.

Our memories, associations and emotions occur just below the surface of our awareness. In response to stimuli, our minds go busily to work at a staggering speed, networking, sharing, distributing, connecting, shuffling and reshuffling memories, images and thoughts before the first words of reaction ever leave our lips. Ironically, the words we speak are literally an afterthought.

How can this knowledge be applied to the way we communicate and deal with our clients? We would like to assume that clients, for the most part, make decisions deliberately and rationally. That is, that they consciously contemplate the relative merits of a choice, assign a value to each criterion and then convert this information into what we call a judgment. We’d certainly like to assume that’s how we make decisions ourselves! But the fact is, most decisions are made at the intuitive, emotional level.

Whether responding to an argument in the courtroom or to a firm’s marketing campaign, even the most intelligent people process their decisions below the surface of their conscious mind. In reality, words and logic have more to do with justifying a decision than forming the basis of one.

Consider how clients choose law firms. They may think they were led by logic–going with “a big firm” or choosing on the basis of a lawyer’s “professional demeanor,” but they are actually using their intuition to make a highly subjective -decision.

When attorneys learn to think emotionally, they will find new ways to communicate with their clients at the decision-making level. Therefore, providing a renowned level of service to clients means expanding the quality of personal attention given to the emotional side of problem solving. Lawyers who pay attention to clients’ subjective experiences are able to offer a wide scope of practical and legal options for their clients to consider.

“We see the same problems over and over again,” a partner in a small Cleveland practice explained. “When we know our clients are going through a painful time in their life, our job is often to help them connect the dots at a personal level. This requires us to think emotionally–to become more empathetic–so that we can get inside the minds of our clients. But the truth is, even in the context of law, a client’s decision process is driven more strongly by emotion than by any other single factor.”
Emotion is a stronger influence on the decision-making process, but words are not even a close second, although it’s a common assumption that we think in words.

While words play a central role in communicating thoughts, we rarely use them to think. Using words is just too slow, and language does not contain enough bandwidth to accommodate the complexity of our think-ing processes. Feelings can be both instantaneous and complex in ways that words cannot be.

The law firm that recognizes the important role emotions play in its clients’ decision-making process and adjusts its service accordingly will find new opportunities to provide clients with increasingly higher levels of service.

Knowledge Sharing

Professional service marketing is both knowledge intensive and relation-ship intensive. For law firms in particular, knowledge-sharing and relationship-building are two essential elements of providing quality legal counsel, and they need to work together. Developing client relationships comes from sharing knowledge in ways that build confidence and trust.
Unfortunately, many lawyers are reluctant to share their knowledge with clients. Some would rather create a shroud of mystery around their work, forcing clients to view them as indispensable–an especially effective technique for a lawyer who has already been successful in solving a prior legal problem for a client. However, this approach almost always results in clients feeling insecure and vulnerable, and it does not lead to the type of trust or loyalty that, in the long run, makes clients return.

Marketing is an empathetic process. It requires that lawyers step back and become observers in the lawyer-client relationship. In doing so, we must detach ourselves from our own views and old ways of thinking. For most of us, this requires a shift in perspective.

Neuroscientists tell us that our minds thrive on exploring new ways of thinking–seeing relationships between things we previously thought were unrelated and finding commonality between different disciplines such as language and the arts or science and philosophy.

The same can be said of the kind of shift in thinking required to connect emotions with marketing and marketing with identity. These new combinations are powerful and effective, but part of the challenge in us-ing them is to first get our minds around them.
The entire range of our thinking, the depth of our very perception, is said to shift when we challenge ourselves to understand the totality of something rather than just our narrow part of it.

Thinking is our forte as lawyers. But true mental strength depends on our willingness to understand different types of thinking on being able to shift and widen our perspectives and consider new approaches to problem solving.
Challenging our minds means breaking through the linear and narrow confines of our own categorical logic. We need to look beyond the world of opposites–things that are either true or false but never both. In short, we need to stop and take a fresh look at what we do and why we do it. If we hope to provide the kind of high-level service that will set us apart from our competition and create a new magnitude of client satisfaction, we need to see clients’ needs in ways we haven’t seen before.

This, of course, requires that we develop new ways of thinking. It means leaving our mental comfort zone–not a pleasant proposition for lawyers who have spent years learning how to think in that zone. Yet leaving it is essential if we are committed to the full range of the market-ing process.

Service Based on Character

Action that comes from one’s character is perceived as authentic and therefore predictable. Ideally, clients will come to know their lawyers as people who can be counted on under almost any circumstances. Lawyers who can be counted on to be responsible, attentive, caring, sensible, hon-est, hardworking and trustworthy will attract new clients and keep existing ones.
Developing a law firm based on these types of inspired values is what drives firm growth and fosters prosperity. However, character cannot be imposed from the outside. It must originate from the core of the firm’s leadership and grow outward. That’s why relationship building is so important to our work.

Many law firms balk at investing in education and personal development. Mentoring is too often limited to developing technical skills such as research and drafting. Developing lawyers’ communication and character-building skills has been devalued, and this reflects the degree of resignation and cynicism existing in our profession today. Ironically, the same firms that don’t value personal development wonder why they’re experiencing a staggering drop in client satisfaction.

The Trust Factor

Do clients see you as someone they trust? As someone who is honest with them and acts with integrity? Are you seen as someone who truly cares about their welfare?

What we do for our clients reveals not only our immediate intentions, but also our character.
Clients measure our service first and foremost–but not completely–by our actions. If our actions are perceived to arise naturally from our character, then we are perceived as sincere and trustworthy. If not, which all too often is the case, we can appear calculating and manipulative.

Clients trust their lawyers if they believe in the truth of the lawyers’ character. For lawyers to learn to serve from their character takes time, effort and a commitment to individual development. Despite popular opinion, character can be developed and learned, especially if it is en-forced by the firm’s culture and leadership. Thus, the term character building.
For most firms, however, developing communication skills in their lawyers is simply not a priority. In fact, some firms believe that it’s not necessary if they simply hire quality people.

“When we recruit, we look for young people who have a strong sense of purpose,” said a partner at an East Coast firm. “To our firm, this means maturity, manners and common sense. Sure, we want the brightest minds, but we refuse to compromise on character. We won’t give an of-fer unless we believe in our gut that person can truly grow into being a partner.”

Lawyers who are truly valued by their clients develop client relation-ships that grow into alliances. At the other end of the spectrum are lawyers who view their job as opening and closing files. They exist in a virtual dead zone–a place where the personal side of the client’s experience is not relevant, the client having been reduced to just another “fact” in a set of issues belonging to a file making up a unit of revenue.

Somewhere along the line, these lawyers have come to believe that as long as there is sufficient revenue flow, fixing and changing the exterior problems (applying the hammer) will be sufficient to keep declining service in check. In the meantime, the partners keep partnering and hope that no one notices that they don’t have a clue about where the firm is going or how it will end up.

Without a moral center, there can be no group intention or direction. Instead, there is just the “organization” operating on cruise control, applying superficial fixes to problematic contact points where service and performance have fallen to unacceptable levels.

Accountability

Consider what it means to be accountable to your clients. When clients put their trust in you, what does that mean specifically–to you and to your firm?

Accountability can be viewed as the process by which a firm either succeeds or fails to make and keep its promises. What types of promises? The types that come from the firm’s inspired values–those that originate from the moral center of the firm–the “V” spot.

One partner had a very clear sense of what his firm promises: “Our clients count on us to be dependable, honest and totally committed to their interests all the time, every time.”

Take the time to identify just three character traits that clients can count on your firm to deliver. As an experiment, list these traits on paper and ask a few other people at your firm to come up with their own list. You’ll be surprised at how the responses will vary from person to person.
Consider this: If a firm can’t agree on what its clients should expect, chances are, neither can its clients. This is exactly why a firm must define for itself what it means to be in the service of its clients. Only with a clear understanding of its inspired values can a firm hope to provide clients with a consistent experience of exceptional service that they will long remember.

Seven Steps for Picking the Best Birth Injury Law Firm

Choosing a law firm is never easy. A commercial on television, billboard on the side of the road, or advertisement on your favorite web page tells you very little about the quality of the firm you select. Recommendations from friends are good, but only if you happen to have a friend who previously had a lawsuit in the same area as you. Referrals from other attorneys who may know the leading experts in the area you need can be helpful. Still, the process of choosing a law firm can be largely mysterious.

Let me help clear it up. If you suspect your child was injured by medical negligence and are looking for the right firm, here are some steps you can follow to choose the best lawyers for the job:

1) Make sure the firm specializes in birth injury cases. Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who is familiar and comfortable with the area? Law firms with lots of experience in birth injury will be far better equipped to deal with your case than those who are new to the field. If you are getting a recommendation, ask to be referred to a firm whose specialty is birth injury.

2) Look at the firm’s credentials and rankings. There are a number of websites and publications that rank attorneys and law firms. These can provide useful information about a firm’s value, success, and reputation. Check out Martindale.com, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and the US News rankings of best law firms.

3) Choose a law firm with medical professionals on staff. Success in birth injury cases depends on nuanced knowledge of both the legal and medical system. If your law firm has doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals working for them, they are better prepared to handle the subject matter and win your case.

4) Make sure the law firm knows how to say “no” to too-low settlement offers. Defense attorneys may offer attractive settlements that may be, in reality, far lower than the actual cost of lifetime care of a severely disabled child. You need an attorney you can trust to turn down offers when appropriate.

5) Pick a firm that has sufficient financial resources. Law suits can take years from start to finish – and when the payout only comes at the end, some firms will not be able to make the necessary investment. By looking at the size of a firm’s staff, the number of years they’ve been practicing, and evidence of successes, you can get some idea of their financial depth. This is needed if you want them to keep experienced attorneys and staff working on your case, potentially for a long time.

6) Do not choose a firm who demands payment up front. Injury attorneys are typically paid a portion of the payout if they win or settle your case. A good firm won’t rush you to sign an agreement if you are still uncertain. Make sure they are easy to reach and keep you updated on the progress of your case.

7) Don’t assume your firm has to be confined to your geographic area. Some larger law firms are licensed to practice in many states.

How Does a Debt Settlement Law Firm Work?

I have been working in the debt settlement industry for almost ten years now and have very extensive knowledge as to how it works. Before we begin I want to say this will be a rather long article and if you are not serious about finding a solution to your debt problem then stop reading now. The purpose of this article is to explain to you first how debt settlement works and what the process entails; both the good and the bad. Next I will explain the differences between how a debt settlement law firm works and how it compares to a standard debt settlement company. There are many differences between how this process is handled by the two. Because of this debtors should learn these differences before enrolling into any program. Many people may already know how a debt settlement company works but have no clue as to how a law firm works and this article will explain just that.

First of all, I would like to state that debt settlement as a means of credit card debt relief is not for everyone; some people simply do not have the right state of mind, while others may benefit more from bankruptcy.

To begin with I would like to go over the purpose of credit card debt settlement and how the process works. The purpose of debt settlement is for the debtor to get out of debt quickly without having to file bankruptcy and save a lot of money in the process. The goal of the debt negotiator is to negotiate a one time lump sum payment on the debtors’ behalf at a far reduced amount than what the debtor currently owes.

These benefits are tremendous. The debtor could save themselves close to half of what they currently owe and be out of debt in a few years. However as with most things in life there are drawbacks to this process and there is no way to avoid them.

In order for any creditor to be willing to negotiate a debt settlement on a debt the account must fall into default first. There are no creditors in the world willing to negotiate when you are current and up to date on your monthly minimum payments. If they feel you can maintain your monthly minimums than this is precisely where the creditors want to keep you. This is where their profit is made, by just paying the minimum each month you will be in debt for over thirty years, even if the interest rate is not all that high. If your rate is above 20%, you will be stuck in debt for well beyond thirty years and payback the creditors well over ten times the original balance alone in interest. That is exactly where they want you!

So understandably they will not negotiate with you when you are current and they feel they can still bank on your minimum payments for years to come. So the only way to ever negotiate is to fall behind on the monthly payments. Naturally once you do this you will be negatively affecting your credit score and will also be receiving calls from collectors; this is what may put some people off from doing debt settlement, thus why I stated above this process may not be for everyone.

For those people already behind this will not make a difference and their credit will not be damaged any more than it already is, however for those who are current this will adversely affect their credit. It is quite a shame that this point alone may stop some people from using debt settlement; thus dooming them to being financial servants to the creditors for decades to come.

You must also be made aware that this process in the end will begin to help rebuild your credit. Thirty percent of your MyFICO credit score is made up of your debt to credit ratio, which will look a lot better after you get out of debt. Additionally the negative remarks from falling behind will not hold much bearing on your credit score after two years. Your credit score is only a snapshot in time and only uses the last two years of payment history to determine the score.

Now during the process of falling behind your goal is to save up as much money as possible in the quickest possible time. This money is then used later on to pay off the settlement that is negotiated by the debt negotiator. The faster someone looks to save money and complete this process the better for many reasons. For one the faster you are out of debt the more money you stand to save and the less risk you take from the negative aspects of settlement such as lawsuit and further damage to the credit report.

This brings us to the title of the article “How Does a Debt Settlement Law Firm Work?” As I explained above there are great benefits to debt settlement such as saving lots of money and time; and there are also some downsides such as collection calls and the possibility of a lawsuit.

The main differences between how debt settlement is handled by a debt settlement law firm and standard debt settlement company is how they deal with the negative drawbacks. A law firm has much more legal power and is set up correctly to comply with their states’ laws.

Collection Calls

One of the first major differences in how debt settlement is handled has to deal with collections calls. When you first fall behind and your debt is still in the hands of the original creditor there is nothing legally that can be done to stop them from calling. However once the creditor passes the account off to a third party collection agency which will happen anywhere between 3-6 months after falling behind things change. Legally once in the hands of the collectors a law firm will have the power to have all calls to their client stopped, and if the collector continues to call and harass the client legal action can be taken against that creditor seeing as they will be in violation of the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collections Practices Act).

So the client’s first advantage by using a law firm will be a much decreased activity in collection calls, and this is very important for some people. Any regular debt settlement companies that claim they can stop the calls are simply not telling you the truth and you should be very weary of them because of this.

Lawsuits

The next major advantage a law firm has concerning debt settlement is how a lawsuit can be handled. In case you are not aware once you fall behind on your credit card debts the creditors/collectors do hold the legal right to pursue you through the courts to collect the debt. However I will mention, that suing is not the mainstay of the collectors and is not exercised very often; reason being it simply costs too much money and time on the creditor’s behalf with no guarantee of getting any money even if they were able to obtain a judgment anyway.

The advantage the law firm has is they can still legally contact and negotiate a settlement with your collector after they have issued a summons to court. A debt settlement company does not have this legal power. The collectors are very willing to negotiate a settlement even after the summons has been issued; they realize they may get very little if anything regardless, so being contacted by a reputable law firm who is willing to offer them money and settle the debt without wasting any time or money with going to court is very beneficial to the collector.

If you get sued and you only have a standard company representing you, you can expect to go to court and try to figure it out yourself. This often results in a judgment for the debtor!

Correct Legal Set Up

Perhaps the biggest advantage the law firm has over a company is how they are set up. The vast majority of debt settlement companies are not legally allowed to work in all the states; many are not even set up correctly to operate in their own state.

The states’ attorneys and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are cracking down severely on these companies and shutting them down as fast as possible. When this happens often times the company does not have the money to payback its clients for the fees they paid to a company that will no longer be in business and can no longer help to settle their debts. Now the debtor will be left holding the bag having paid thousands in fees but still be stuck in debt, and this nightmare scenario happens more than you may think. Thus making law firms a much, much safer option!

Another issue that many people have with debt settlement companies is they will not disclose how this process works and will simply sugar coats things and preach about the great benefits but never mention one downside. A law firm legally must disclose everything about how this works before being able to enroll anyone into any structured payment plan. A lot of companies do not have your interest at heart and will say whatever it takes to get you signed up even if they are fully aware that they are setting you up to fail.

Which brings me to my last point; a lot of unscrupulous companies will allow their clients to sign into a program and pay whatever they want and put them into programs that are set up for much longer than they should be. By stretching a debt settlement program out the savings will decrease and the potential for a lawsuit will increase. These companies cannot legally give the client advice or assistance if they get sued; it is considered unlicensed practice of law and this is what I mean by them knowing they will be setting you up to fail. If you can’t get this process done within three years, four max in special situations, then you should seriously consider bankruptcy. A law firm will be strait up and tell this to you, where many shady companies will keep trying to sign you up.

I really hope after reading this article you feel enlightened and now have a much better understanding of how debt settlement works and how a law firm can advantage you the most. I know for the most part I have been focusing on the negative aspects of debt settlement, but I feel it is important for people to understand both the good and the bad, allowing them to make an educated wise financial decision on how to get out of debt. But you must realize just how powerful the benefits of this process are! Saving close to half of what is currently owed and becoming debt free in a few years will be so beneficial to your current and future financial well being. Credit card debt has a way of destroying people’s finances and their lives and debt settlement is the perfect alternative for those who want to escape debt quickly and avoid the embarrassment of filing for bankruptcy.

If you are curious as to whether using a debt settlement law firm can benefit your financial situation then I invite you to follow the link below in the signature box and fill out an application. I welcome the opportunity to review your personal and unique situation to see if debt settlement will be the right fit for you.