Editor: W. Patrick Tandy
Using Your Staff to
Build Your Practice
We have discussed
staff issues many times in this column, but they have mostly been related
to “problems” with staff. This month, I would like to talk about how staff
– all staff – can help you market and develop your practice. If you do not
have any staff, you can apply some of these tips towith your family and
friends. These people are already a part of your firm or life – why not
use them effectively? Remember: in client development, everything counts.
Make it count for something good.
Did you know that
- existing clients
represent 80-85 percent of next year’s business?
- existing clients
will refer 50 percent of your new clients?
- it takes six
times as much time and effort to get a new client as it does to keep a
- 20 percent of
clients are responsible for 80 percent of your firm’s business?
This is why it is
imperative that you spend 80 percent of your marketing effort time
building relationships with current/past clients and 20 percent of your
time on building your reputation. Most of your time should be spent
keeping current clients happy, and your staff can go a long way in helping
(or hurting) you in this endeavor.
In his book Selling
the Invisible (for review from previous column go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/marketing/invisible.htm),
Henry Beckwith makes the point that marketing is not merely a department
but in fact your business and that everyone in your firm is a marketing
It is very
important that your staff, no matter how small, have the same commitment
to quality service that you do. If this is not true, then you have the
wrong people on your staff. It is also important that your friends and
family understand how you define quality service. Your staff often have as
much (if not more) contact with your clients than you do as they routinely
interact with clients and referral sources. The number one reason that
clients leave a firm is because they were disappointed with the service
they received, and much of that service will come from other people in
Before giving any
tips on how you can involve your staff (and family) in marketing the firm,
you have to share some vital information with your staff. We have said
that quality service is critical to keep clients happy, but does your
staff know how you define “quality client service”? You must be able to
write your definition. What does it mean to you to provide quality
service? How do you expect your clients to be treated? Once you commit
this to paper, you need to share it with everyone in the firm and perhaps
even with your family. Some of the items that need to be addressed when
considering client service include phone and e-mail etiquette, how to
treat clients in your waiting area, client confidentiality, accuracy of
correspondence and billing and the small ways in which clients are made to
feel special. This commitment to quality should be the same for everyone
in the firm. Your staff should have it as part of their evaluation.
Tips to Help Your
Staff Help You Help Your Clients
- Where we are
headed: You must share the vision you have for the firm. What type of
clients do you want to have? What type of clients do you NOT want to
have? You need to explain to staff all the services you provide and
those that you may no longer want to provide. If you find that you do
not know who you want as clients, then you need to make this
- All for one and
one for all: Staff must be made to understand that they are integral to
the success (or failure) of the firm. This is especially true with solo
and small firm practitioners. In a small firm, there is no latitude for
mediocrity. Everyone has to operate at a high level including the staff.
It is your responsibility to help them see how they contribute to the
- Staff know
people who need services: Some might think that there is no way staff
could refer the firm good business, but never underestimate the
connections or associations staff may have outside of the office.
Letting staff know what type of client you want and what services you
offer can assist them if they meet people who may be in need of legal
services. All staff should also be given business cards and encouraged
to use them at social or business functions.
- Communication is
the key: It is very easy to communicate in a small firm and that can
make it easier to involve staff in future growth. Your office should
meet on a quarterly basis to talk about the firm’s new clients and to
discuss how they came to the firm and determine what needs to be done to
keep the clients happy. This will be time well-spent. This meeting can
be done at a staff lunch or breakfast.
- Give staff more
(not less) responsibility: A good way to involve staff is to assign
various marketing tasks. Some of those tasks are writing press releases
and maintaining firm client mailing lists. Staff will often welcome a
new responsibility if they see the value in it. One excellent way to
connect with clients is to send them articles from the newspaper or the
Internet or other publications that may be of interest to them. Staff
could be encouraged to review various newspapers and publications and
forward articles of interest to you for mailing to clients. This helps
you keep in touch with the client and it involves the staff in the work
of the clients.
- Adopt a
“meet-and-greet” policy: Always introduce your staff to clients. This is
pretty easy in a small firm, so take advantage of it. Clients will be
more willing to take assistance from others when you are not available
if they have been “formally” introduced to the other members of the
- The receptionist
as king: The person or persons who answer your phone and greet clients
when they first come to your office can have a huge impact on their
level of satisfaction. It is important you train the receptionist or
anyone in the office who may answer phones in how you expect the phones
to be answered. You should also discuss how questions are to be answered
and messages are to be taken and delivered. Depending upon your
particular practice or situation, you can assign the receptionist the
responsibility of following up to make certain that all calls were
returned or questions answered.
- Go team!: It may
sound hokey, but for people to feel a part of the success of the
practice they have to feel as though it is a team effort and that
everyone contributes. How about getting t-shirts or hats or some piece
of apparel with the firm name on it? Most firms have a casual day at
least one day a month on which staff can wear their team outfits.
- Invest in
training: Find training for staff to improve their skills in client
service, telephone techniques, software training and other areas that
will help the firm enhance the service that is provided to clients.
Staff can be taught to maintain databases, create websites or web blogs,
write press releases, answer phones, handle problems and many other
areas that will go a long way in dealing with clients. It is a great
investment to consider some of these alternatives. Let your staff know
to come to you if they find some opportunities. You might want to
consider sending some staff to the Solo and Small Firm Practice
Section’s Solo Day on November 6, 2004. There are sessions on marketing
and client service that could be used as a training opportunity.
Consider teaching staff how to “network” and distribute business cards.
(You might even want to learn this yourself.)
If you do send
staff to some training, make sure that they report back to the entire
staff (you are a small office, remember) some of the valuable lessons
These are just a
few simple ways to encourage your staff to help with the growth of the
firm. In a small firm, every single employee is a key player. If you have
people who are not willing to be a cheerleader for the firm and help you
provide great service to current clients while looking for ways to develop
new clients, they may be more of a liability than an asset. You work too
hard to allow that to happen. The right people, given the right training,
opportunities and encouragement, can make all the difference.