9 Soft Skills the Best Lawyers Use to Grow their Practice

What do the best lawyers do differently? FirmChecker has collected and analysed thousands of reviews, so we’ve got great insights as to exactly what they do. If you’re a lawyer – this is mandatory reading. If you’re considering hiring a law firm – you might want to know what to look for!

Accounting firm owners can see what makes the best firms in their industry tick here.

The best lawyers aren’t just book smart…

In our 2017 survey, we asked clients “what did [your firm] do particularly well?” in the most recent matter their lawyer completed for them. Filtering for six of the best-performed law firms, we analysed approximately 250 responses, and categorised themes within these responses into the attributes below.

Figure 1: Soft Skills are mentioned more by clients when they are asked “What did [your firm] do particularly well?”

As expected, ‘hard’ attributes like ‘Expertise’, ‘Quality of Advice & Results’ and ‘Fast Service’ were prevalent, making up 33% of the mentions in the positive client comments.

However, a host of ‘soft’ attributes had a significant impact upon client satisfaction, including:

1. Effective Communication (Easy to understand advice)
2. Understanding Client Needs (Considering client’s business and/or financial situation)
3. Professionalism (Conducting themselves ethically, honestly and professionally)
4. Reliability (Delivering work on time and on budget)
5. Responsiveness (Returning emails and phone calls promptly)
6. Care for Clients (Going the extra mile, demonstrated care for the clients’ needs)
7. Proactive Service (Anticipating client needs and getting in contact)
8. Friendly Service (Friendliness and approachability of lawyers and support staff)
9. Availability (Being willing and able to answer queries at short notice)

These ‘soft’ attributes made up 65% of mentions by clients when asked about what their firm did well. Note, this is not the rank order of importance. Rather, it is simply a depiction of how frequently clients mentioned a firm’s strengths. Broadly speaking, ‘soft’ skills are mentioned more than ‘hard’ skills.

Figure 2: Soft Skills are mentioned more by clients when they are asked “What did [your firm] do particularly well?”

This is meaningful, because clients weren’t specifically prompted, as they are in rating questions.

How the Best Lawyers Deal with Fees

Fees were mentioned relatively infrequently when clients were assessing what their firm did particularly well. These mentions were categorised as follows:

1. Fee Certainty (Usually Fixed Fees specifically)
2. Low Fees (Client explicitly mentions low fees or competitive rates)

Somewhat surprisingly, ‘Low Fees’ only received 0.2% mentions. There are two possible take-outs here:

1. Low Fees are not required for satisfied clients, and firms should not endeavour to differentiate on price per se.
2. Firms don’t do a particularly good job of delivering services at a reasonable price.

We favour the first explanation, as most of the clients were evidently very happy with their service. Focusing on the soft skills mentioned in this post should therefore be a priority, so your firm is viewed as ‘Expensive, but worth it’.

‘Fee Certainty’ was mentioned more frequently – with 2% of mentions. While this is a relatively low proportion of mentions, it’s worth paying attention. While zero clients specifically said they were happy with hourly rates, praise of fixed fees was relatively common. Additionally, Fixed Fee structures had a statistically significant influence on overall client satisfaction.

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