A recent study of the main content pages of the largest 50 law firm websites found that less than 10% of the nation’s largest law firms demonstrated a strong commitment to client service on their websites.
According to the study, 38% of the largest law firms made no mention at all of a ‘commitment to client service’ or similar statement on the Welcome, Firm Overview or Home page of their website. The study, which was conducted by Lawyer Up!, a legal marketing blog, also found less that 10% of the firms have any meaningful content explaining and/or providing evidence of their client service commitment on their websites.
“In a service industry which is suffering one of the worst recessions it has ever experienced, the lack of a stated commitment to client service is quite surprising”, said Eric Dewey, a legal marketing and strategy consultant and author of the study.
Websites clearly play an integral role in the marketing of law firms. A recent global study by Lexis Nexis and The Wicker Park Group found that 100% of in-house counsel visits a law firm’s website when considering a new attorney or new firm for a case or matter. That same survey found that 52% of all respondents do not seek formal client feedback and 44% of all respondents to the Lexis Nexis study do not plan to obtain client feedback!
The website study looked for content on the main pages of the websites of the largest 50 law firms in the U.S. which described their commitment to client service. The study also evaluated the frequency in which these claims were substantiated with examples or objective evidence of service excellence. These included use of client testimonials, client service awards, the use of client interviews or feedback systems or the existence of client service teams, among others.
Each website was evaluated in five main categories of client service commitment. To achieve a ‘compelling demonstration of a commitment to client service’, firms had to get credit in at least three of the five categories. The first evaluation criteria looked for a simple statement of commitment. Any mention on the Firm’s home page, ‘About Us’, ’Firm Overview’, ‘Our Culture’ or similar pages regarding the Firm’s commitment to, expectation of or recognition for client service or client satisfaction would suffice for credit.
The other four criteria graded firms on the use of supporting evidence of the firm’s client service claims. These included:
1. The presence of client testimonials, awards or recognition about the Firm’s client focus, service quality or satisfaction
2. Written service commitments, service standards or a description of service methods
3. Other evidence of a commitment to client service, focus or intimacy (such as client service teams, a Client Service Director, etc.)
4. Mention that the firm performs client interviews or formally collects client feedback
“The overall impression from this study is that the largest law firms continue to differentiate themselves almost exclusively on their legal skill and knowledge and pay little attention, at least as judged by their marketing materials, to the other factors that clients look for in their selection of outside counsel,” Dewey said, “that being, service and organizational effectiveness.”
A number of firms included additional examples of how they manage the expectations of clients. Eleven firms scored between 1 and 3 points, depending upon the number of examples they listed. Client Service Teams were the most frequently mentioned evidence of client service commitments. No firm mentioned the presence of a Client Service professional on staff.
Four firms implied performing formal client satisfaction interviews or mentioned having client feedback programs. Certainly more firms conduct client satisfaction interviews and many clearly do so on an informal basis in the course of working with a client. References to client interviews undertaken for the purpose of collecting measurements of client satisfaction were difficult to ascertain due to the lack of definition firms gave to what they meant by ‘client interviews’. The purpose of meeting with clients was not always made clear as to whether the meeting was to plot case strategy or determine client satisfaction. However, none of the firms mentioned whether these meetings were ‘off the clock’ or whether feedback gathered through the process was circulated within the firm.
Eleven of the 50 firms included some form of reference to specific service standards, service values or service commitments, with three of the eleven characterizing these standards as ‘core’ to how the firm does business.
“If one assumes a firm's website captures the company’s best qualities and attributes, the lack of a reference to a commitment to client satisfaction, let alone mentioning the use of client service teams, client interviews or training in client service, is stunning in its absence”, Dewey said. “And this is especially so among a group of firms who are presumed to be the most sophisticated law firms in the US.”
The news is not all bad. Two of the largest 50 firms stood out for their commitment to client service. Two Firms tied for the highest point totals in the study, eight out of a possible eleven points, and were the only two firms which earned at least one point in each of the five categories. Three firms earned the next highest point totals of five.
Lawyer Up! is written by Eric Dewey, Principal of Renova Management Group, and features articles, tips and tools on marketing, client development and strategy for professional service firms. Dewey recently published a white paper on law firm differentiation that earned him the designation as one of the 5 ‘best kept secrets’ in professional services consulting by the blog, reThink Law Firm Consulting.
For more information on the Client Service Website Survey of the Top 50 Law Firms, contact Eric@renovamanagementgroup.com or visit us at http://www.renovamanagementgroup.com Lawyer up can be read at http://www.lawyerupmarketing.com