Focus on clients

Just because you have a law degree and are operating your own firm does not mean you stop dreaming. You likely started your firm with an idea of what your practice could become. Over the years, that vision you started out with may have changed somewhat but likely never left you completely.

A recent study by the American Bar Association found that out of the 2020 graduating class of law students, less than one percent started their own firm. Of the approximately three hundred law graduates who did, the continued success of their practices likely depends on their ability to manage their clients successfully.

It is in this area — managing and attracting clientele — that wisdom from years past can still speak to modern lawyers. While advertising and attracting new clients is a necessity for most law firms, large or small, that should not come at the expense of the client relationships you have already formed.

What Birds in Bushes Teach Lawyers About Client Retention

You may have heard the saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The language may be a bit awkward, perhaps due to the fact that it has been used on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere since at least the seventeenth century. 

Although this saying has varied in its wording over the years and between cultures, the meaning has remained constant — the sure thing you have “in hand” is more valuable than pursuing something that appears of greater value but that you do not yet have.

The earliest confirmed usage of this proverb in its present form is found in John Ray’s 1670s book, A Hand-Book of Proverbs. It is believed to refer to falconry, the practice of using a bird of prey to hunt other birds and small game for sport or food. 

In this context, the bird you have on hand or “in the hand” — the falcon — is of great value, no matter the worth of the prey you can see or hear but do not yet have in your possession. 

This cautionary saying advises you to value the falcon (an opportunity, possession, etc.) you already have. According to this saying, you shouldn’t overrate something that may appear enticing and risk what you already have in order to get it — especially when there’s no guarantee that the newer opportunity is genuinely better. The bottom line is that it’s not worth losing something you already have at the mere possibility of something better. 

Clients “in Hand” vs. Clients “in the Bush”

Marketing and advertising are essential to the continued growth of your law firm. If you do not market yourself to new clients in some fashion, our experience suggests your firm will only grow so large. 

Whether you market yourself by word-of-mouth only or employ a multi-prong holistic advertising strategy, many firms can only survive by securing new clients.

The proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is not a call to ignore new, potential clients. It should serve as a reminder, though, to be careful about ignoring your existing client base at the expense of attracting new clients. 

Even if other potential clients or a new client base appears more lucrative, your existing portfolio should command a fair portion of your attention. 

Reasons Why Your Existing Clients Are Important

Marketing often focuses strongly on drawing new customers to a company. However, this tactic should not replace tending to your existing customer base. Retaining customers can be easier and less expensive than pursuing new leads. Research shows that most businesses sell to between 5% and 20% of new customers, which jumps from 60% to 70% for existing customersNew clients indeed bring in new capital to your firm in the form of retainers and potential income. Nonetheless, there are several reasons why your existing clients deserve your time and attention as well.

Your Existing Clients Can Be a Source of Continuing Income, Too

Depending on your fee structure, an existing client’s contribution to your firm’s bottom line does not end when they sign your contract, and the retainer is deposited. As you continue to represent them, they will likely continue to pay the invoices you send to them and provide your firm with income.

However, if your existing clients feel neglected, they may take their business — and the ongoing income they provide — to an attorney who makes them feel valued and important.

Your Existing Clients Can Lead to Ethical Complaints

Your existing clientele can do more than take their business to another law firm. They can file an ethical complaint against you if they feel you have neglected their matter. 

To an existing client, it might not matter that you were engaged in an advertising campaign to attract new clients. It is reasonable for clients to expect that when they retain your services, you will give their legal matter the attention it deserves.

Ethical complaints can cost you valuable time and money. When a complaint is filed, it will cause an immediate shift of your focus, resources, and energy to defend against the allegations and protect your license properly. 

Your Existing Clients Can Help Attract New Customers

The value of developing solid customer relationships can’t be understated. One analysis shows that a 5% increase in customer retention results in a profit increase of 25% to 95%, with 65% of a company’s purchases coming from returning customers. Another analysis found that retaining customers is seven times less expensive than acquiring them. Not only do your existing customers provide you with defined income, but they can also be a source of new clients. Suppose you perform a competent or even excellent job for your existing clients. In that case, our experience suggests that these clients will recommend your firm to their family, friends, and coworkers when those individuals require legal assistance.

Get Help Managing Your Firm by Contacting Woven Legal

Managing your solo or small firm can be challenging, especially without the right support personnel. 

Woven Legal helps firms by putting you in contact with experienced, knowledgeable legal support professionals like paralegals, legal assistants, and bookkeepers. This network can help save your firm time and money and avoid the perils of hiring someone who is not the right fit for your firm.

Get started learning about Woven Legal and how our services can be helpful to you and your firm. Contact us and schedule your free discovery call today.


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