This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy

Hooking up

Hooking up


Forget catching sharks, how do we reel in more clients? Russell Conway shares his ideas

We seem to be hearing a lot about sharks in the news recently, particularly the unpleasant incident where the couple in the Seychelles had their honeymoon prematurely ended by the groom being killed by one.

It is thought that the creature responsible for this appalling incident is a bull shark '“ an extremely aggressive shark that loiters in shallow waters and has an interesting biology which allows it to operate not only in salt water but also to saunter up inland rivers into fresh waters. Bull sharks are feared by freshwater fishermen and shellfish divers who are very aware of the dangers they present.

I was watching a programme recently about these animals and how they can be caught for research purposes. The hook used to catch them is rather ingenious; it is made up of a large piece of wire and a peculiarly shaped hook which is loaded with the appropriate bait (usually a large fish). The hook must be big but if it is too big the shark will not go for it and if it is too small the shark cannot be captured.

Interestingly, as they are an endangered species, when researchers catch a bull shark to research its characteristics they are obliged once finished to put it back into the sea or the river from whence it came.

All this talk of hooking makes me contemplate how solicitors actually get their clients. How do we interest them in our services? Having once seen the client, how can we be sure that they will remain clients in this increasingly competitive and technology-heavy environment that we live in? Why should clients come to see us rather than simply getting the answers off the internet or ringing up some form of helpline?

Solicitors should be aware of the increasing number of alternatives to that comfortable chat across the desk we are all familiar with but which may become a little historical in relation to some aspects of legal advice.

Tempting offers

I have always been in two minds about whether I should give a client 30 minutes' free advice. I realise that if I make this offer on my website and I see ten people a day for no charge I could end up going bust very quickly. On the other hand I have hooked many a client through spending a sympathetic 30 minutes with them, giving them useful information about their case and finally capping the whole interview with a list of things that I could do '“ if they wanted to pay me to do it. Of course another way to hook clients is to make them want to see you. When a client knows that you are very good at what you do and your reputation precedes you they will want you to do their case rather than just anybody.

Hooking a client can mean imaginative proposals on fees. Sometimes it is far better to have a modest fee than no fee at all. If you really believe in the client's case some form of conditional fee arrangement may be workable. Increasingly I find it a good idea to give clients time to pay over the course of the matter. Simply asking for £10,000 up front will not work for some clients, whereas if you are aware of the fact that the litigation is going on for a year why not ask for £1,000 a month?

At your service

However, it is not just about money. It is also about customer service. Customer service starts with your webpage. It continues on through their discussions with your receptionist and the efficiency of your telephone service. It includes how swiftly you respond to an email. Clients are often impressed if they send you an email at 9pm and you respond that same night. They know you are there and to be trusted. The customer service continues in your firm's reception area. Are they being treated politely, efficiently, offered tea and coffee and, most of all, are there people smiling at them and treating them like human beings?

Hooking clients does have its problems (as indeed does hooking bull sharks). I find that listing previous good results on my website is something that catches the clients' eye. They like the fact that I have done a large number of cases in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. Track records count for a great deal. Clients crave a winner!

One unique selling point I have is my labrador Cosmo, who tenderly licks clients' fingers as they sit in reception. It is a nice experience and one that clients often talk about. Children love to come to the office as Cosmo is particularly fond of them and sometimes a little overly fond of their toys. Clients remember him and have often said they have never seen such a lovely dog in a solicitors' office before. Perhaps he is the very hook I need!