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Case Management Meets the Legal Concierge

by C. Walker Harper

on 12 April, 2019

Use Case Management Software to Offer Concierge-grade Legal Service

There is nothing finer than great customer service. It makes you feel respected and important, and it’s also something you don’t easily forget.

I once stayed at the famed Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The entire staff really went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable, but the most impressive effort came from Richard, the hotel concierge.

Richard possessed a prodigious knowledge of the town and its happenings and always addressed me as “Mr. Harper.” He was also great at anticipating a guest’s needs.

But the best part of this hotel’s amenities, in my opinion, was the turn-down service. Each night, your bed would be “turned down,” and two warm and tasty walnut chocolate-chip cookies were placed on the nightstand, along with your beverage choice—a nice way to end the day.

One evening while rushing out for a dinner appointment, I mentioned to my partner that we needed to get back in time for cookies. Apparently, Richard overheard me, because when we returned, well after midnight, he greeted me and said that he had had the kitchen save two cookies for me. They were soon delivered to my room—and they arrived still warm.

Great concierges are in high demand because of their common sense and knowledge. They are also well-trained, professional and resourceful and, like Richard, passionate about serving others. They also remain nonplussed, even when dealing with unusual or difficult requests.

These client-facing skills can also make attorneys and their firms extremely valuable to their clients.

In the electronic age, the speed of business has increased dramatically. Transactions that once took hours or even days to finish are now completed within minutes. As a result of the increased pace of business, clients need their questions answered immediately. Oftentimes, that means consulting an attorney.

Firms are meeting the demand for increased accessibility with a new and profitable innovation: Concierge Lawyering, enabled by a modern case management solution.

In short, concierge lawyering means offering clients premier services at a higher-than-average price. Clients of concierge lawyers typically pay a flat-fee for greater access to their attorney. Done correctly, and with the proper case management software available to meet added demand, the end result is happy clients served more thoroughly and comfortably in a manner more efficient and profitable for the attorney.

Concierge lawyering can add to your bottom line, but it comes with some stiff challenges. It’s difficult to know if this practice style will work for you until you try it. So, before you jump in, let’s take a look at some of the benefits and a few of the downsides of offering concierge legal services.

Client Benefits

Increased accessibility to an attorney – Studies show the primary reason clients switch law firms is not because of pricing, but rather a lack of service, real or perceived. Clients pay good money and want to know that their lawyer will respond promptly to questions and concerns. To this end, consider choosing case management software that offers text-to-case functionality.

No searching for an attorney – Finding an attorney can be difficult and time-consuming. As a result, clients often forego the process and make important decisions without proper legal advice. In a concierge relationship, clients don’t have to look for a lawyer because theirs is just a phone call or text away.

Consistent communication – A lack of communication from an attorney can frustrate a client and make them feel neglected. Presently, I’m acting as the liaison between an oil company and a small-town country lawyer who is handling a land dispute. Legally, he seems competent, but he doesn’t return messages. It’s infuriating.

An important hearing is coming up and the company stands to lose a great deal of money if unprepared. Unfortunately, I’m in the dark as to the exact date because this guy doesn’t communicate.

It would be great if I and others knew what was going on at each stage of the litigation. An easy way to check important trial dates would be helpful. And further, with the right case management software, I could offer unprecedented and secure case-access to my clients without adding overhead.

Attorney house-calls – A client only contacts you when they have a problem, and the last thing they want to do in that case is travel to your office for a long sit-down. With concierge lawyering, the client simply schedules a convenient time for an appointment at their office and the attorney shows up. Clients have other things to do. Let the attorney schlep across town.

Back to that small-town attorney from before—he doesn’t like to leave his county. I did explain that we pay for travel time, but no, he won’t do it. So, every few weeks I drive to his office—two hours away—just to have a 15-minute parley. I’m frustrated because it takes me away from other important tasks (he doesn’t know it, but I’m already shopping for his replacement).

Sometimes it’s advantageous for a client to come to the firm’s office, particularly if a meeting involves multiple attorneys and complex issues. However, attorneys shouldn’t count on “wowing” a client with impressive office trappings. More often than not, the client looks around and wonders if their bill might be padded to pay for the expensive digs.

Trust me, clients will be more impressed if you go to them. It’s a show of respect. If that just sounds too inconvenient, remember that good case management software can enable smoother coordination for all parties involved.

Attorney Benefits

Reduced office overhead – Concierge attorneys who do most of their legal work off-site can save on office expenses by having a smaller staff, thereby increasing their profits. They might even pass along some of the savings to clients in the form of lower bills.

Ease of working – Attorneys also don’t have to worry about hauling heavy files to a client’s business. With the proper case management software, they can conduct business anywhere by connecting to the cloud via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

A closer relationship with clients – Effective relationships can also lead to closer bonds between the attorney and client. Since each knows how the other operates, it’s easy for the attorney to point out potential risks to a client. In turn, the client is more likely to refer you to their friends.

Clients may also direct other legal issues your way. These extra projects often expose attorneys to new and interesting practice areas. Numerous times during my career, I’ve started out drafting a simple contract for a client and soon found myself writing wills, selling properties and negotiating OSHA fines. I’ve even represented a client’s relative on a drug charge.

Consistent income – Concierge lawyering can enable an attorney to establish steady income streams. Your clients pay a fee regardless of if they use your services often. Making regular contact with a client, even if just to say hello and ask how things are going, will increase their loyalty towards you—and modern case management solutions will ensure you never miss a client-contact.

Challenges of Concierge Service

Unfortunately, there are downsides to concierge lawyering, and they are mostly on the attorney’s side of the fence. Besides an overly-demanding client, challenges can include:

Unfamiliarity – Because concierge lawyering is a fairly new concept, some clients may not feel comfortable and view it as too expensive to keep you on retainer. You will have to put in the effort to convince them of the upside to such a relationship.

Scheduling – Being “on-call” can wreak havoc with a lawyer’s non-work life. Family and friends may not take kindly to missed birthdays and other special events. Proper planning is essential so that your work doesn’t consume you. But remember that good case management software can streamline the logistical side of your client relationships, making it easier to balance more things at one time.

Unpredictable workload – Legal issues are often unpredictable and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a client problem that exceeds your abilities. It can get awkward explaining to a client that you’re going to refer them to another attorney, especially if they are paying for concierge legal service.

Fortunately, the way to avoid these pitfalls is a carefully drafted concierge agreement, paying particular attention to what can go wrong. A good concierge agreement will include the following:

  • A specified length of service. While you can agree on any duration, I recommend you start out with six months to see if this style of practice works for you.
  • Limits on the number of phone calls and texts a client can send within a set period.
  • A clause stating that you will return calls or texts within a certain number of hours. The shorter the time the better, but not too short!
  • Hours in which you are available and a 24/7 number for emergencies.
  • Limiting the practice areas in which you will operate. This can be a good way to beef up your network by recommending fellow attorneys with specialty practices.
  • Set pricing for your services and being on-call. Make sure to clarify any “extra” duties beyond those listed in the agreement

Concierge lawyering is a great way to build your practice, cement client loyalty, and increase profits. And the only limit to the services you can offer clients is your imagination.

One final word of caution: Don’t take on too many concierge clients at once. The money is good when they aren’t using your services, but an overly demanding client, or two, can run you ragged.