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Family law is a funny old game. We do what we do, day after day; the clients come, we find a resolution that works for them either quickly or slowly, then they go... and another one comes. We hope.
Most of you will have some idea of where most of your clients come from. You'll be asking them when they call, or at the first meeting: where did they hear about you? From whom did they get your name? We all have our best referral sources. For many of us, they're former clients. And isn't that the best feeling, when someone for whom you felt you did a really good job sends you her business partner, or his best mate?
Happy clients make happy lawyers. We want to make our clients happy, or at least happier - for so many of us, family law attracted us in the first place because we like helping people and we want to make a difference in people's lives.
And happy clients are a fabulous source of business, as we established earlier. In fact, if you think about it, happy clients are essential to your business survival - they pay your bills, they feed your children.
So how many of your clients are happy with the service you're giving them? And how happy are they? What do you mean, you don't know?
It's the one thing you need to know to ensure the survival of your career, or your business, in this changing world of family legal services. If you're not asking, you are putting yourself at risk of going down the wrong roads. Why aren't you asking? Do you think that they'll universally be miserable? It’s true that they're getting divorced, so they'll be tough to make happy but if this is your business, you need to work out how to do that to succeed. Are you worried about what they might say? Are you afraid of criticism?
We are all a little afraid of criticism. It is essential, however, to understand that constructive criticism is a shining gift. Only the client has a true experience of your service in their particular case - you can think you did a horrible job but if the client still thinks you're great, you've got another potential source of business. You can think you did an awesome job, but if the client thinks you were a little bit 'meh', who cares what you think? They won't be referring their friends.
Good client service is not an absolute - it's a subjective experience. One client will consider good client service to be 24/7 access to you, while another wants you to get on with it and only be in touch briefly when you need instructions. But any client whose needs you fulfil brilliantly will become a source of referrals. You just have to know what they want.
You just won't know until you ask. But knowing will make all the difference to your business, both short and long-term. It's the one thing you need to know. So ask.
Suzy Ashworth is a business consultant, business coach and family lawyer/mediator
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