Let’s talk about something that makes most lawyers cringe when they first hear it: Automating client communications.
Why do they cringe? Because many lawyers hold onto the belief that communications can’t be automated without sacrificing the client relationship. After all, that relationship is what brings you increased referrals. It’s where you get to be the rock star for your clients and differentiate your services.
And that is true – to an extent. Personally engaging with your clients is always going to be your best differentiator as a lawyer because no one else can sound like you, act like you, or have the same way of approaching things as you. But many lawyers are missing out on the huge opportunity automated communications provide to be highly effective and get a lot more done without having to personally invest time or energy in doing so.
Now, I’m not suggesting that automated communications can or should eliminate all customized communications. Things happen during a case, and obviously you have to be able to pivot and respond. But a lot of the mundane, step-by-step, FYI communications lend themselves perfectly to some form of automaticity. Typically, these kinds of communications are delegated to a paraprofessional, which – while still better than having it be done by you if it’s not legal advice – is not as efficient as having it run automatically.
HOW TO APPROACH DRIP CAMPAIGNS FOR YOUR CLIENTSWhen you hear the words “drip campaign”, you probably think of marketing. And to some degree, we are talking about marketing to our existing clients. But there are a lot of other ways to be effective using this type of process in your law firm, including some of your more basic communications.
"CONVEYER BELT" COMMUNICATIONS
Start by thinking about the trajectory of a case from beginning to end. You probably have a series of documented steps, including things like filing pleadings, receiving responsive pleadings, etc. There is some form of transactional activity, whether that transaction is negotiation or advocacy, or explicating the details of your matter so that someone can ultimately decide upon your matter. And then there is some form of closing to the matter, and your client is going to experience that matter at different stages based on where they fall within the process.
Oftentimes, you are doing a lot of things behind the scenes to move the matter forward. In these cases, if you don’t tell your clients you’re working hard, they don’t know it. They just assume if they’re not hearing anything, nothing is happening.
So, the next step is to think about all those times when you have received some form of communication from your client that caused you to realize that the client doesn’t seem to understand how hard you’re working. The client doesn’t seem to grasp how much is involved, and the client doesn’t seem to appreciate that you are putting in a lot of effort on their behalf to get to a good result.
A drip campaign is your opportunity to eliminate that confusion. You can build workflows whereby every time something happens, you communicate that activity to a software program and the next communication goes out to your client. Even if some of this information was included in your new client intake packet, let’s be real: They may have never read it, or they’ve already forgotten what they read.
Here are just two examples of what these “Conveyer Belt” communications might be:
- “Hi! We’ve just received our file pleading. The next step is that we’re going to serve the adverse party and upon serving them, they will have X number of days to respond.”
- Every time you get a court notice, you send it out to the client by attaching it to an email that’s already built out in a workflow. The email tells them, “Here’s this type of notice, this is what it means, I want you to look at this part of the notice where it says X, and this is your next court date, etc.”
Think about what you can communicate to curate their experience so that they are reminded of things they need to know. If they are continuously informed or reminded of next steps, you’ve essentially got them on a conveyor belt from the beginning of coming into your law firm to the end of working with your law firm.
The more processes and systems you build into that process, the more confidence you’re going to instill in your client that they made the right choice in you. Why? Not only do you have the information, but you are sharing it with them. Rarely is there going to be a time where you’re going to over-educate your clients.
"PERSONAL TOUCH" COMMUNICATIONS
For most people, building out the workflow is a big enough process, so they don’t necessarily get to this type of communication right away – but it’s a gamechanger when you’re ready. The idea is to create workflows and automated communications that add in personal connection in a way that doesn’t require personal activity.
One way to do this is to record a video for your clients. You can embed video emails into your workflows to add a personal touch. They don’t even have to be of you; it could be your paralegal or administrative assistant, as well.
Here’ s one example of what this communication could be:
- Video of you stating “Hi, we just got a notice. I wanted to send you this quick video to explain what this notice is.” You could even get super fancy and incorporate screen sharing, as well.
"ADDITIONAL SUPPORT" COMMUNICATIONS
When you think about creating automaticity in your communications, there’s also an opportunity to offer an additional level of support that has little to do with the actual subject matter of your representation. Start to think about ways you can train people or provide additional resources on how to deal with the emotional toll of being involved in contested litigation, for example, or how to prepare yourself psychologically for reviewing the transactional document that’s been created.
Here are a few examples of this type of communication:
- If you’re an estate planning attorney, you can have educational videos built into a system for your client on “Here’s how to have challenging conversations about end of life with your loved one.”
- If you’re a family law attorney, you can send information on “How to start making plans for rebuilding your friendship group after divorce.”
- If you’re a real estate attorney, you could provide video trainings on “How to manage your finances now that you’ve closed on your home.”
TOP 3 GOALS AUTOMATED COMMUNICATIONS HELP YOU REACH
When you start communicating with people in this highly efficient but still personalized manner, you achieve three goals at once.
- Goal 1: You ensure that you are communicating with your client. The number one complaint the public has about lawyers is lack of communication. That’s across all practice areas. When you start to see complaints come in from clients to the Office of Attorney Ethics, the most popular one is almost invariably lack of communication.
- Goal 2: You create a personalized touch without having to be everywhere all at once. This allows you to have more communication with a client while still preserving your time and energy. As lawyers, we need that energy to make sure we’re performing at our best when doing the things that people hire us for. Being on the phone all day, every day, running from person to person is not the best use of that energy.
- Goal 3: You increase the number of touchpoints that you have with your client, and you are giving them value that can be compensable. The fact that you have previously built out a workflow doesn’t mean you can’t charge for the very substantive communication that you’re going to give them in a particular communication. If you’re giving them substantive legal value, you’re allowed to charge for legal value. If you’re concerned about the ethics behind this, check with your Office of Attorney Ethics before you do anything that’s recommended because, ultimately, your license is yours to protect. But I throw it out there for your consideration because it’s a way to expand the pie of your available resources while still giving your client a great experience.
As you begin your journey to building out automated communications, they will enable you to:
- Help your client feel an unparalleled – and unexpected – level of education, information, guidance, and support in excess of what is minimally required by your retainer agreement.
- Generate more work from the existing client. If the client is triggered to ask you questions or call to schedule appointments because you need to talk through certain things, depending on the type of matter that you have and your fee structure, you may be able to generate additional work and additional revenue.
- Make those one-to-one communications you’re bound to have with them feel even more valuable because of the high-level communications they already receive from you as part of your standard practice.