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Improve Client Experience and Retention with Nonfinancial Metrics

Attorneys practice law every day, but most clients do not. Oftentimes, clients might be coming to the office with negative emotions: anger about an accident, sadness about a divorce or fear about creating a will. If you add to that a chaotic experience, you’re less likely to have a satisfied client — which means fewer referrals and repeat business. A client who knows what to expect — and gets it — happily pays their fee, refers others and calls you every time. 

John C. Scott

Client experience and retention are what we call “nonfinancial metrics” — crucial aspects of running a law practice that have an impact on your bottom line but are not directly related to dollars and cents.

Clients want to feel as though you’re responding to their unique needs. Having a process does not mean delivering cookie-cutter services. A process can be structured enough to allow for efficiencies and flexible enough to accommodate individual needs.

Even though keeping clients happy might seem more like an art than a science, it’s possible to put systems in place to track — and improve — these metrics.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Outline the milestones that will occur over the lifecycle of the matter.

Before you can educate your client about what will occur, you need to look at what parts of your practice are process driven. In certain areas of the law — family law or estate planning — this might be straightforward. What is your cadence of meetings? What paperwork is produced and signed, and when? (For criminal cases or civil litigation, it might be less clear-cut but still worth looking into, if you can document any part of the process.)

Treat each milestone as a chance to educate the client. With regular communication, you can set and adjust expectations. Just make sure that your updates are transparent and jargon-free. When you explain your processes in an understandable manner, you build trust and communicate your value, making them more than happy to pay the bill.

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2. Set processes to ensure milestones occur.

Once you’ve got the necessary steps, think about what needs to happen to get things done and who is responsible. This step is a time to start thinking about reviewing your methods of communication and which tools can be used at different stages.

Consider multiple points of entry, in addition to the traditional phone and email, including Slack, text and video calls, to accommodate their preferences and increase their access to you — within the boundaries of your set office hours. Leveraging other technology, such as an online portal, allows clients 24-hour access to their documents, without tying up office assistants and paralegals in endless email requests.

“Clients want to feel as though you’re responding to their unique needs. Having a process does not mean delivering cookie-cutter services. A process can be structured enough to allow for efficiencies and flexible enough to accommodate individual needs.”

Take time to document these processes, even the most routine. You’ll revise them as necessary, but that requires starting with a baseline.

3. Collect information

Steps one and two are about putting your best foot forward. Step three is about making sure you actually are on track. As part of each milestone, we recommend building in an opportunity to monitor how well you are adhering to your processes. This could include checking in internally with your staff, but also conducting formal or informal client satisfaction surveys.

I’ve seen this play out where a firm creates a list of questions for their clients to gauge client satisfaction. As soon as they get a negative answer, they bring it to the managing attorney who takes steps to address it directly. Then, they’d follow up the next week to see if things had improved.

4. Make course corrections as necessary

The big accomplishment comes when you take your feedback and use it to tweak your processes. Is every client getting hung up on the same issue? If so, maybe it’s time to reconfigure the process, tackle the problem in a different way or get additional training for your staff.

As you repeat these steps, you’ll ensure that you have the best processes in place, and that the client perceives value in your relationship.


Documenting and improving your client processes not only ensures you’ll improve satisfaction and retention now; it also acts as an investment for onboarding new staff.

First, you’re helping your team enhance their specific skills in relation to the processes, shortening the learning curve. Second, you’re teaching them to develop and improve processes on their own, developing the firm’s future leadership.

Creating these training processes allows you to scale with fewer growing pains. It’s like building a franchise: Once you have a tried and tested manual that says what you do and how, as long as you stay open to improving, you can scale, hire more people and service more clients — without experiencing a drop in client satisfaction and retention.