Summary: Is your law firm everything it can be for your clients? Find out in this article how your firm can offer your clients more.
- The old ways of today’s successful law firms are long gone.
- Not only do these firms provide legal assistance, but they help their clientele in other ways as well.
- From services outside of law, such as accounting, investment assistance and managed care of estates, law firms have evolved into one-stop businesses with the whole of a client’s needs in mind.
Because as with any entity, a law firm has to concern itself with business, income, overhead and the dispensation of funds to its partners, associates and nonlegal staff.
In short, one eye has to be on the profits while the other eye focuses toward costs. That alone can equate a law firm to being like a business.
Another aspect in which law firms distinguish themselves as businesses is by offering more services that are less legally related to their clients.
Doing this, of course, is beneficial to today’s law firms as clients increasingly like to rely on one source for their needs. Think of it in the same way you might think of Costco; a place where you can get nearly anything you want within the retail sector.
At Costco you can shop for a television under the same roof as where you can buy jeans and tee-shirts. Steaks can be found there as easily as home appliances. And there’s every sort of food product imaginable stacked nearly to the ceiling or piled high in fruit and vegetable bins.
From booze to basketball shoes, printer paper to papaya, vegetables to fine vinos, cars to caskets – it’s all there for you at Costco.
So why should a law firm be any different from a Costco. Well, it shouldn’t. In fact, it would behoove all law firms to establish services either under their own roofs or through tight partnerships with other firms, to satisfy every need a client could have.
Keep reading to find out the 5 client needs that law firms should be aware of, expand upon and facilitate which not only help the client, but bolster the law firm with additional billable hours.
Your One-Stop Law Firm
Take a moment and imagine you have a very needy client.
They have a family trust and investments. The client also has a love interest who is not American, but would nonetheless like to stay in America with your client. In addition, your client has recently started a business that has accounting needs he would like to streamline by not using a third party accounting firm. Of course, because your client owns a new business he will invariably need advice on insurance coverage for his workers. And lastly, your client has empty land he would like to develop.
So the question is can your firm satisfy this person’s plethora of issues?
As your law firm evolves (or as your clients make your law firm evolve) to cater to more than just legal needs, you should consider onboarding legal experts in these five practice areas that can eventually be a part of many peoples’ lives, and not just this one client.
1) Will and family trust maintenance
Invariably, good legal clients – in other words clients who can pay their legal bills without fear or pushback, may indeed have a reasonable amount of finances backing them up, this essentially coming in the form of a will and/or family trust.
If this is the case, you should have on hand an attorney who specializes in family law, which can involve trusts and other family finances.
If you do have a family law attorney, introduce your client to that attorney. Let him or her explore the client’s background and offer assistance to hopefully secure any upcoming business that can occur in this practice area.
So that same client has a foreign girlfriend. They would love to stay together on a legal basis. However, her visa will soon run out, making it so she has one of two choices:
- Leave the U.S. to return her own country.
- Stay in the U.S. illegally.
The benefit here is that within your arsenal of attorneys, you happen to have an immigration lawyer who is well versed with what your client and his girlfriend are going through.
According to Attorneys.com, an immigration attorney does much more than help people become citizens of new countries. Immigration attorneys can defend a person's case and prevent him or her from being deported to another country.
Immigration lawyers also provide legal advice about a person's ability to obtain a work visa in another country for a specified period of time, or if a student is studying abroad, then he or she may want to consult with immigration attorneys for the appropriate visa.
More than once you have heard this client complain about the efficacy of his accounting services.
They are slow to respond to his needs, are often unprepared when tax season arrives, and along with their check writing services they provide to your client’s new business, the bills are often sent in late. Then, of course, there’s the prohibitively high expense they incur each month they work with the client.
As this takes a large toll on your client, he asks you if there’s any way your law firm can help him out with this ordeal.
What’s fortunate is your firm has a tax attorney to whom you can refer your client. This attorney will not only know the latest tax codes, which tend to change on a yearly basis, but could also provide your client his needed accounting services, particularly if your tax attorney is also a CPA.
The American Academy of Attorney-CPAs states that for an attorney to become dually qualified (in law and accounting) gives far greater insight and perspective than an average lawyer or accountant.
In short, should you have a tax attorney, that person can be readily available for your client’s accounting and tax needs all within the same law firm that oversees his family’s trust, emerging business and his girlfriend’s immigration status.
4) Insurance advice
By all accounts, your client’s doing well with his new business. He’s also a good boss who immensely values his employees. In fact, your client values his employees so highly he would like to put them on a better insurance plan.
This is where an insurance attorney could become a welcomed addition to your firm.
An insurance attorney can advise your client on the types of policies that are available, or if there is a dispute between your client’s business and/or employees and the insurance company, an insurance attorney can counsel and eventually take action if your client feels he’s mistreated, or if his coverage falls far short of the premiums he pays.
To that end, having an insurance attorney within your firm can be beneficial if:
- Your client’s insurance company, which includes auto, health, homeowners, life, disability, etc., isn’t covering something they should or is otherwise being unfair.
- Your client, a family member of your client’s, or someone who works for your client’s business was in an accident involving someone else and their insurance company isn’t paying properly.
- Your client’s policy (or policies) are canceled or altered in some manner, making your client unable to obtain insurance.
- The life insurance policy of a deceased relative of your client, such as a parent, isn’t paying out after that family member’s death.
5) Real estate advice
Not long ago, your client acquired property that every now and then he has mentioned he wants to develop. Work and other obligations, however, always got in the way of his desires to do something with this piece of land.
With his business now thriving and needing less of his attention, the client tells you that he’s once again interested in developing the empty lot he purchased, yet needs advice about permits, easements and boundaries.
At this juncture, an on staff real estate attorney could be a big plus for your firm, especially as you find your firm has other clients who also hold large land parcels that at some point could be developed.
According to Investopedia, real estate attorneys specialize in, and apply their legal skills to, matters related to property, from everyday transactions to disputes. A real estate attorney is equipped to prepare and review documents relating to real estate such as purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents and transfer documents. Real estate attorneys also handle closings – that is, when an individual or entity purchases a piece of real property from another person or entity.
Real estate attorneys also know the various building codes, understands the required permits and is familiar with other aspects that are a part of developing properties.
Granted, the entirety of your clientele won’t have a legal portfolio as encompassing and vast as the client mentioned in this article.
But at the same time, a person with these needs may one day ask about other needs such as insurance, immigration, family finance, or any other issue under the umbrella of law. All you can do at that point is happily reply that you have someone (or at least know someone) within your firm who could be of assistance, or shrug your shoulders, clueless as to any way in which you can help your client out.
Of course, the one-stop-legal-shopper will expect better service than a shrug. They expect a host of answers and suggestions to their myriad of legal issues, and for their money already spent with your firm, it would befit you to remedy their needs.
This is, after all, what the new legal client is shaping up to become; someone who wants their legal work performed in one place and at one time.
Yes, it might seem as if your law firm has become the Costco of practice areas. But then judging from how happy Costco customers are after they leave the store and walk across the parking lot, their carts spilling over with goods, should give you an idea of how happy your client will be once he can take care all of his legal needs in literally “one shop,” which is your law firm.
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