Competition for clients is fierce. Whether you're a solo practitioner or an attorney at a large firm, client retention matters. After all, you didn't put all that work into marketing, networking and outreach to see your clients poached by competitors.
The best clients are your existing clients, so hold onto them tight. Here's three tips to help you keep clients from being poached by the competition:
1. Don't Give Them a Reason to Leave
The best way to avoid losing clients is to make sure that they're happy. This includes basics like returning client phone calls the day of or not nickel and diming them for every photocopy you make. But it also means developing your attorney bedside manner, knowing how to listen to clients, to provide detailed explanations, and to involve them in the legal process. A content client is much more likely to turn down an offer to jump ship than a client who feels ignored or ripped off.
2. Reward Loyalty
Think about implementing a time or spending-based discount plan, offering discounts on some services after a client has been with the firm for a certain amount of time or racked up a certain billing amount. Make sure that clients know that these benefits are available -- and that they'd lose them if they left. It's not exactly a consumer loyalty punch card -- Six Lawsuits and Your Seventh is Free! -- just some well thought out perks for loyal, long-term clients.
3. Beware of Exiting Employees
Often, it's not the firm down the street who is stealing your clients, it's attorneys leaving the firm. When lawyers take off, whether for a competitor or to hang her own shingle, their clients may follow -- especially when a single attorney works primarily with the client.
Stealing clients from the firm can be a breach of fiduciary duty. Take, for example, the case of the Dowd and Dowd firm. When two partners decided to leave, they used confidential information to secure funding for a new firm, secretly contacted clients, and poached employees. The firm sued them for a breach of fiduciary duty and tortuous interference with prospective economic advantage -- and won $2.5 million.
A lawyer who steals clients may also be breaking ethics rules. After all, the profession strictly limits a lawyer's ability to solicit clients. So if a lawyer takes all her clients out to lunch and asks them to join her at her new firm, she's probably violating ethics rules. The same is true for attorneys who use the firms resources to recruit clients before they jump ship.