You’ve heard and read many times about the importance of communication and managing client expectations to ensure a successful and profitable engagement. The legal business is essentially relationship based and no relationship survives, let alone thrives, without good communication. The clients may care more about the communication/relationship than your ability or the quality of your work product. So if at that initial client meeting, you can put yourself in their shoes and see the experience through your client’s eyes and anticipate their needs and questions, you are one step ahead of your competitors.
A well designed new client packet can create a client experience that will be memorable, differentiate you from other attorneys in town and build the foundation for a successful and profitable engagement. A New Client Welcome Package assures your new client is properly welcomed into your practice. In this article, I want to layout items that should be part of a new client welcome packet.
First impressions matter. So invest in getting nice quality folders designed. On the cover, include your logo, address, website, and phone number. List practice areas on the back of the folder. A welcome package in a folder also provides a place for clients to keep important documents or information throughout the engagement.
Include the following items in your welcome packet:
1. A welcome letter (sample below):
We wanted to take a minute to thank you for considering our firm for your legal work and to share with you some information about our firm. We realize this may be your first experience working with a law firm, so we hope the enclosed packet is helpful. We certainly appreciate your business and want to make sure you are receiving exceptional client service in all interactions with our firm.If there is anything you think our office could do to provide our services more effectively, please let us know. The enclosed packet contains the following items:
o Contact information and how best to reach me or my staff;
o Frequently asked questions form;
o Information Sheet for Client: This form will provide you with information about billing, fees and expenses. Please retain for your records;
o Client Intake/Information Sheet; Please complete this form and return in enclosed envelope;
o Sample invoices;
o Sample fee agreement letter.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at ___________________. It would be my pleasure to hear from you and to answer your questions. We truly appreciate the opportunity to work with you.
2. Contact Information Sheet. Include a one page sheet which lists :
• Your name, email address and best phone number to reach you;
• Name, email address and phone number of each member of you support staff;
• The best time to reach you (day of week/time of day);
• Your preferred mode of communication – email or phone.
3. Frequently Asked Questions. Prepare an FAQ sheet which includes:
• Timeline or flow of case indicating steps along the way where documents may be needed from client and the types of documents to be filed with the court;
• Additional parties that will be part of case;
• Information about the court involved with the case;
• Describe the discovery process;
• List of required documents;
• If appropriate, mention that a trial may take place;
• What happens at end of engagement.
A FAQ sheet for a real estate deal, estate planning or a new business set-up will be much different than a FAQ sheet for a foreclosure, bankruptcy, criminal or divorce/custody case. Taking the time up front to prepare these can be a valuable asset to managing your risk and communicating with your client. These sheets also give you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge.
4. Information Sheet for Client:
• State your billing rate, your paralegal’s billing rate;
• What expenses, other than fees, may be incurred;
• Is a retainer being requested – if so how much and does it need to be replenished;
• How frequently can your client expect to receive invoices; and
• Payment terms.
5. Client Intake Form for Firm Database. This is ideal for collecting additional information about the client up-front that you may need later in the engagement:
• There are many versions of this form available and for a client welcome packet, you want to keep it general:
• Gather name, address, phone, email; This information is important to send a non-engagement letter if you choose not to represent them.
• Why are they contacting you, what assistance do they need;
• Get a list of other parties involved for further conflict checking;
• Ask if they have consulted with other attorneys on this matter; if so, who and when;
• More general information
• Marital status;
• Social Security number or Driver’s License #
• Name of employer, current position and address
• How they heard about your firm.
• Include a signature line for client and a disclosure statement:
Your signature acknowledges only that you received a copy of this completed information sheet and does not mean you have hired the Attorney. A separate fee agreement will be prepared and signed.
6. Sample Invoices:
• By adding this it reinforces the “getting paid” part of the engagement;
• Having a sample one to review is another indirect way of having the sometimes difficult conversation about getting paid.
7. Sample Fee Agreements: The type you include will be based on the type of engagement being discussed.
8. Firm brochure listing attorney bios and all areas of practice your firm provides – cross selling opportunities.
9. Include a copy of your firm newsletter, a newsletter or client testimonies.
Last , I have been encouraging attorneys to include a copy of an article or a “How To… “ white paper. You know what topics are of interest to your clients, so include something that is relevant to the problem the client is facing. Include resources to help educate the client about the general realm of their legal matter. You might include an article from one of your referral sources to further cement this relationship. For example, a CPA refers clients to you and you have a potential new client for whom you will set up a new business. Maybe the referring CPA has written articles that include tips on setting up accounting processes for new businesses.
If you don’t have a new client welcome packet, now is the perfect time to put one in place. If you have one, sit down and review what you are including and maybe juice it up a little, including some of the above items. Review the above list and sit down with your support staff to get their input. This is also a great way to keep your staff engaged in your practice.
The benefits of a well-thought out welcome packet include:
1. Less time spent answering unnecessary questions;
2. Fewer headaches;
3. More timely payments and less collection work;
4. More satisfied clients which can lead to more referrals.
And this all adds up to a more profitable practice. If you would like more information about designing a client welcome packet and creating memorable client experiences, please contact me. It would be my pleasure to assist you.
Peggy Gruenke, Owner/Consultant LawBizCOO
Specializing in Law Firm Practice Management and Business Development for solo and small firm attorneys. Peggy can be found on Twitter @PeggyGruenke, LinkedIn and at www.lawbizcoo.com.
This article was first published in publication LexiLoci, April 2013 edition, with the Northern Kentucky Bar Association.