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When Silence is Deafening

The appalling continuation of client neglect.

I’ve been gritting my teeth in frustration since reading Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report.

Along with examining factors of law firm growth, KPIs and other metrics, the survey reveals that U.S. law firms continue to neglect clients through non-responsiveness and poor quality communications.

To conduct the 2019 study, Clio hired a third-party research firm that, acting as prospective clients, contacted 1,000 law firms by email and phone to assess responsiveness and quality of communications

Findings In a Nutshell

  • Only 40 per cent responded to the email
  • 56 per cent of phone calls were answered by a person and 39 percent went to voicemail
  • More than half of firms didn’t respond to their voicemails within 72 hours

Across both email and phone, the majority of firms were not able to provide adequate information when responding to the client questions designed for the study:

  • 7 out of 10 firms provided unsatisfactory email responses
  • 6 out of 10 firms provided unsatisfactory phone responses
  • Nearly all firms provided unsatisfactory voicemail responses

But Wait, There’s More

To learn what potential clients expect when contacting a law firm, Clio surveyed 2,000 consumers. The results indicated that legal clients want upfront information about their case and what to expect when working with the firm.

Based on the survey results, Clio created the following criteria:

  • For an adequate email response, firms needed to: Respond within 24 hours, answer at least one question regarding the issue or the lawyer’s ability to help, provide some information on either rates or booking a consultation, and not be confusing in their communications.
  • For an adequate phone call, law firms needed to achieve an average performance of 50 percent across the following: number of questions answered, ability to demonstrate experience with the matter, provide some information on how to learn about rates or overall cost, and provide information on next steps.

Additionally, most clients (82 per cent) agreed that timeliness was important, and 79 per cent indicated that they expected a response within 24 hours. Of the firms that responded to Clio’s emails, 82 per cent did so within 24 hours, indicating that law firms typically respond within 24 hours or not at all.

Source: Clio

A Personal Perspective

Communication is considered a soft skill, yet many lawyers and law firms fail at it.

As an aside, I question why any law firm, in terms of client communications — or anything else for that matter — would desire to be “adequate.” Why would any client want to deal with a firm that is less than excellent? Is it acceptable to be only average?

Best to remember that first impressions count, sometimes to the point of making or breaking you.

Especially in these uncertain times when the legal market is tightening, competition is becoming fierce and it’s vital to actively demonstrate client care from the get-go, you’ve got to wonder what it takes.

Are clients asking for the moon? With a fence around it?

I think not, and say so while offering a few ideas for fixes in this Law Times article.

Heather Suttie is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on legal market strategy and management of legal services firms.

For 25 years, she has advised leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — on innovative strategies pertaining to business, markets, management, and clients.

The result is accelerated performance achieved through a distinctive one of one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage leading to greater market share, revenue, and profits.

The effect is accomplishment of the prime objective — To Win.

Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or

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