“Looking after our clients is our number 1 priority”
How many managing partners of law firms would tell you that? I am betting every single one of them! But at least when I say it, I can back it up with good hard evidence.
The good people at Legalease, who publish the Legal 500 directory of top law firms, have conducted some wide-ranging (and I might add independent) research on the issue of client care. What they found was that the best law firms, the ones that really understood what their clients wanted from their services and were able to supply that, were the specialist ones, the ones that just concentrate on a narrow section of the law, and make it their mission to be the best at doing so. This is in contrast to bigger outfits which try and cover more – or all the – bases.
In fact in this study published earlier this month, Bolt Burdon Kemp feature in the top 20 specialist London law firms for client care. That to my mind is some achievement, and I am justly proud to shout about it: When I say that looking after our clients is at the heart of everything we do, I can back it up!
As a specialist firm we focus on the needs of people who have been seriously injured at the hands of another. We have put together teams of lawyers who have expertise in representing people with very particular needs:
- Children who have brain injuries
- Adults who have brain injuries
- People who have suffered a spinal injury
- Victims and survivors of abuse
- People who have suffered other life changing injuries, such as amputations or disease
- The dependants of those who have been killed
- Current and former armed forces personnel who require specialist support from lawyers who understand the military
This represents a very narrow ‘market place’ for our services. Unlike many professional services firms, the vast majority of our clients are (we hope) one-off users of our services. We have nothing to cross-sell. In spite of this, we are hugely committed to finding out what our clients want from us, and how we can best achieve the outcome they want, in what is always going to be a ‘distress purchase’; we are here to solve a major problem (a life-changing problem) in their life. Yes, we can make things better with compensation (to pay for treatment, rehab, care and adaptations to their home, and make up lost earnings for example), but we can’t make the problem go away entirely.
A long-standing relationship
Because of the type of cases we take on, the really serious cases, there are often complex issues to solve. It takes time to obtain the evidence to build a case to prove the fault of the defendant, and to prove the extent of the losses suffered to ensure we secure the compensation our clients deserve. The cases last some time, and the relationship between our lawyers and their clients is an important one. We have to get that relationship right if we are to be successful as a business. We have to employ (and pay) the most talented lawyers to do the best job; but to do the best job we must learn from our clients. That is why we care so deeply about getting it right.
Our own research
We used to send out email questionnaires to clients at the end of their cases to gauge their satisfaction, and the response rate was (perhaps predictably) low, probably around 5%. We realised that if we were really serious about listening to our clients, we would have to improve. So in May 2017, we pioneered a new approach: We started a system of collating unbidden testimonials from clients, and telephoning all others for an interview. Initially we contacted clients at the end of their cases, but for the most seriously injured, whose cases are long-running, we now contact them at other milestone stages, such as when we have sorted out liability or secured an interim payment.
The latest figures I have for the financial year just gone (so from 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020) would suggest a response rate of 63%, with 85% of those engaging saying that we exceeded their expectations in the service we provided. Whilst that is gratifying, it also allows us to learn from those clients who say we met (10%), or even occasionally didn’t meet (5%) their expectations, to improve our client service further. Much of our work comes from personal recommendation, and the vast majority of our clients would recommend our services to others.
Far from complacent
In my opinion, only the most complacent of law firms would turn down the opportunity to obtain honest feedback from their clients. For us, it’s something we strive for, and will always want to improve upon. I would add that sharing in the joy when a client sings our praises is something that makes the job so worthwhile for us all.
Thanks Legal 500 for recognising us in your top 20!