A very effective way to learn more about your practice (yes, there are actually a lot of things going on in your practice that you don’t know about) is to survey your clients about their experience with your firm. You can learn a lot about how they were treated by your staff at the time they initially called, what their impressions were when they first came in, and how they felt overall about your representation of them. This is all very helpful information to have.
Surveys are Rarely Done by Lawyers
I have seen it suggested that you should do this by calling and personally speaking to clients and asking them these questions. If you have a huge amount of time to kill, I suppose this is okay. Personally, I am all about efficiency and I don’t see this as an efficient use of time.
My system for surveying my clients is pretty effective, gives me a lot of helpful information and takes very little time to implement. About once a year I send an email to each client with a closed file. I don’t survey anyone with an active case because their final opinion has not been formed yet.The email is a template I created asking them to do me a favor and fill out my survey. The only thing that has to be done to the template is to copy and paste their email address and type their first name.
A caveat: always send separate emails, do not send one mass email and “cc” everyone on the list. The template makes it seem very personal to them. If you do a mass mailing it ruins the effect and likely will make many of them angry.
The email includes a link to a special page on my website that includes a form with the questions. You don’t want the survey to be too long or it will suppress your response rate. Mine asks about ten questions in which they rank the firm’s performance from one to five (five being highest). At the end is open ended question that allows them to give feedback on some area that they think needs improvement.
Another caveat: send them to a form. Do not succumb to the temptation to put the questions in the email and just ask them to answer them in a reply email. People like to fill out forms but they hate starting with a blank sheet of paper. If you give them structure with a form they will be much more likely to respond.
Here is an example of some feedback I got that made me take action. At the time I had a part-time employee, a woman in her early twenties, who tended to dress a little too flashy. She wasn’t over-the-top trashy, her clothes were just a little too tight and showed a little too much skin. I had considered discussing it with her but was uncomfortable about it and thought it might just be me being overly conservative and that none of my clients would feel that way.
Well, I was wrong. One of my client’s survey responses basically said that he was very pleased with the representation but wanted me to know that he thought my employee dressed in way that was “unprofessional.”
That was all it took. Knowing that if one client actually had the gumption to say it that there were probably another twenty who had thought it, I had a talk with her and her attire immediately became much more conservative.Problem solved.
One great side benefit to doing surveys is that it is an excellent time to ask for client testimonials. I just put an additional question at the end that asks if they would like to comment on anything they particularly liked or disliked about my representation of them. The next two questions on the survey are whether I have their permission to publish their comments in my marketing materials, using either their name or initials.
I practice family law which has notoriously dissatisfied clients. As the old saying goes, at the end of the divorce trial neither side is smiling. Because of that it was a little scary to ask for feedback. But to my amazement the responses were overwhelmingly positive, even from the more unpleasant clients. Lawyers who sincerely work hard for their clients will be surprised at the nice comments their clients will make if given an opportunity.
So give surveying a try. You will find out a whole lot about your practice and be able to make some improvements that are likely to put money in your pocket.