Looking after your private clients in a recession

 In Practice Management

Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.


In a time of recession no client is ‘safe’. Businesses go bust whilst others have problems paying their bills but the private client sector is probably one of the most vulnerable and the most at risk. Buyer behaviour in a recession has changed;

  • The buyer decision process is taking longer as people research more e.g. on the internet whilst others are willing to ‘wait and see’
  • Thriftiness is on the rise – value for money isn’t enough to keep a client

As private clients often buy ‘transactional services’ e.g. a will, conveyancing or even a divorce, the opportunity to develop long term relationships upon which client loyalty is built, is less available.

That being the case it is all the more important that law firms ensure that their private clients are looked after and that they provide a better and more distinctive service than their competitors. The following points may sound obvious but in our experience it is surprising how many firms don’t follow these simple rules.

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What do clients value?

  • New clients – find out why they chose your firm both initially and on the lead up to the final buying decision. Make it part of the induction process and make sure to make the most of your good points.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – do you regularly ask clients how they feel about you and the services you provide? You need several layers of information – from short ‘quantifiable’ surveys to more in depth interviews where clients are invited to engage in the process and help develop services to their benefit
  • Lost opportunities – if you don’t win a client or lose one, find out why. Was it a pricing issue or related to your services and how you provided them?

Service delivery

  • It’s not what you do but how you do it – remember the memory of the service delivery often outlives the memory of the content
  • Examine the ‘client journey’ in detail, from pre-relationship to final billing, to identify opportunities for innovation that have the potential to enrich the overall experience
  • Your clients are your best ambassadors and referrers – make sure they know you appreciate their business
  • Illustrate your knowledge and expertise
  • Identify the major problems, needs or opportunities for private clients then proactively craft solutions/messages that demonstrate your firm’s ability to respond to those issues
  • Proactivity can be easy to promise but hard to deliver – your clients will appreciate advance warning of technical know-how and offering to review their files or documentation
  • Strategic partnerships – put clients in touch with other intermediaries who can benefit them

Be Visible

  • Optimise your website and make information easily accessible and searchable
  • Ensure you are getting consistent messages out to the market place
  • Network, network, network

All of the above rules can equally apply to commercial clients. The key is to remember that competence and service quality are not differentiators – they are basic expectations. Building long term relationships is critical to your firm’s differentiation and ultimately profitability.


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