As mentioned in a previous article, some clients might actually prefer paying higher rates to lawyers since they might think they are getting better service in return for higher compensation. People naturally equate price with quality, and this applies to a number of different industries other than the legal profession. Along similar lines, some clients like to know that law firms have a solid office, a strong workforce, and other attributes. This might help a client feel like they are dealing with a robust operation that has the resources necessary to complete any given task for a client.
Many small law firms try to keep their overhead low since any additional cost just means that there is less money available to go into the pockets of the partnership. My own firm uses a virtual receptionist and other services in order to cut down on our overhead, which helps us run a lean and mean operation. A virtual receptionist is a person who works for a company and takes calls for numerous businesses and then sends them messages about the calls or transfers the call to someone who works at that business.
One time, a client told me that he had given a message to my “secretary” which kind of confused me. I do not have a secretary, and it was likely that the client had confused my virtual receptionist with someone who worked at my firm full time. The client seemed impressed that a small operation such as my firm would have a secretary, and this definitely impacted my client’s perception of the firm. Of course, I told my client that this person was likely our virtual receptionist, and the client was kind of confused with this concept. In any event, the perception that my firm had the resources to hire a permanent secretary definitely improved our image.
Clients also like to think that a law firm has an office even though the firm shares space or has a virtual workplace. Numerous small law firms, both before and after the pandemic, have secure virtual offices in order to lower their overhead. Attorneys do not need to work at an office as much as they used to and far fewer attorney-client interactions are happening in person because of concerns related to COVID-19. I secured a virtual workspace about a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have been a huge proponent of this for years. A virtual workspace gives me a phone line, fax line, an address, and many other amenities at a fraction of the cost of a physical office.
Even though virtual offices make sense for many law firms, clients often like law firms to have physical offices in the traditional sense. Numerous clients of mine have expressed how cool it is that I have an office that is centrally located and near a lot of the important sites in my area. Of course, I always correct clients on the difference between a virtual workspace and a physical office. Some clients think that it is cool that my firm has a virtual workspace, but most are more impressed when they think that I have a more traditional office.
Letterheads and logos can be a huge deal for clients as well. Not only is this an important way for a law firm to distinguish itself in the legal marketplace, but letterhead and logos can project a positive image that can have a substantial impact on clients. One time, my printer ran out of color ink, and I started printing pretty much everything in black and white. This includes retainer agreements and other documents that were sent to clients.
I have a mentor who is an old-school lawyer, and he found out that I was doing this. He told me to immediately stop printing client documents in black and white and that I should use nicer paper when sending letters to clients. He explained that it looked chintzy that I was printing things out in black and white and that our firm logo is much more powerful if it is seen in color. He explained that clients are much more likely to respond positively to a law firm if they know that the firm took the time to use expensive paper and has the resources to make sure that even the little things were taken care of. Although I believe that certain types of clients might not care much about whether retainer agreements are printed on plain paper and whether documents are sent in black and white, it is definitely true that this might make the difference for some clients.
All told, clients naturally want to know that they have chosen resourceful counsel that has the trappings of success within the legal profession. Accordingly, law firms should definitely invest a little money in the types of things that are going to project a solid image to clients.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at email@example.com.