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Client Service

Surprise Your Clients

By Mark A. Ivener

As a lawyer, you compete at one of three levels. The bottom share of the market serves clients who generally trade quality and service for a lower price. The mid-market caters to average consumers of legal services who seek the “good enough lawyer” and expect to pay reasonably for services. At top-tier firms, you find clients who are willing to pay what it takes for exceptional service and superior quality work.

If you want to call this latter group your own, you must consistently demonstrate that an extraordinary level of service is just as critical to the relationship as finding the best legal solution. After all, every client expects great results. It’s exceptional service that will surprise them—and set your firm above the others.

Exceed Expectations

To become known as a top-level firm, you must make care and service for clients your top priority, and view every interaction as a chance to exceed their expectations. While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how often the basics are overlooked. Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Start at the top. The firm leaders’ attitudes about client service will determine the quality of the service the lawyers and staff deliver. Key management decisions should be made with the client in mind.
  • Underpromise and overdeliver. Your overall goal is not to make the client happy, but to make them feel delighted. Surprise them with how good you really are to them. Do things they’ve not experienced with other service providers.
  • Integrate client service into performance reviews. Many firms fail at this because they do a good job of talking the talk but just can’t bring themselves to walk that walk. If you have a single partner in your firm who abuses clients but who always gets the big bonuses anyway, just kiss your chances in this market niche goodbye.
  • Keep your client in the loop. They want to know the progress of their case. They should never have to ask what you are doing and what to expect. You’ll need to set up internal systems that support this. (Client Portals are an example of how you can create opportunities to excel.)
  • Keep in touch by phone. Yes, email can be quick and handy, but limiting your communications to this impersonal mode allows a client to drift away from the relationship. Connect real time on the phone from time to time, just as you would with a friend. Let clients know they are a priority to you.

When you create happy and satisfied clients, their loyalty will follow. Loyal clients are the ones who can’t wait to brag about their lawyer—and that means good press and word-of-mouth referrals that will help build your reputation as a “top level” firm.

Mark A. Ivener is an immigration lawyer advising on business and entertainment visas, global mobility management, immigration due diligence in M&A, and EB-5 investor Green Cards. He has lectured on U.S. immigration law for organizations such as the World Trade Institute, the Federal and International Bar Associations and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Mark was the only immigration attorney named in the Top 100 Wealth Advisors and Managers in the Americas by Citywealth magazine. Find him at

Categories: Client Service, Daily Dispatch
Originally published May 18, 2011
Last updated October 1, 2018
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