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3 proven ways to build a more profitable client base

It’s always a good idea for any business to revisit its business plan, making sure it’s on track with its vision and meeting the needs of its target customers. Usually this review involves asking itself the three big strategic questions:

  • Where is the practice now?
  • Where do we want it to go?
  • How will we get there?

But sometimes it’s not always easy to clearly identify where you want to go, and who you want to go there with. If that’s the case for your firm, maybe it’s time to step back and see if your clients are the right match for your lawyers.

1. Find your match

One way to identify the best clients for your firm is to conduct what Matt Homann, founder of LexThink, a legal innovation consultancy, dubs a “file autopsy.”

Homann suggests rummaging through your dead files and selecting five cases that were closed within the past year, including files that were loved and files that were not-so-loved. Each file should be quickly reviewed and assessed on the following:

  • Was the case a good fit for the firm?
  • Did the lawyer like the work?
  • Did the case pay well?
  • Did you like the client?
  • Was it an area of practice the lawyers thought they’d like, but learned they didn’t?
  • Was it an area of practice the lawyers thought they’d hate, but learned they didn’t?

This is meant to be a quick weekly exercise, performed by the lawyers, with the help of an assistant. Once a month’s worth of autopsies have been performed, a few trends should become apparent that can be built upon.

(For more information on how to perform a file autopsy, including areas to be assessed and a form to use, visit

2. Drop clients who don’t pay

Take a look at your engagement agreement. Does it specify that all bills must be paid within 30 days? If not, amend your engagement agreement template right away to clearly state collection terms, and start phoning clients when their accounts become past due. If clients learn they can expect your call a few days after payment is due, it is likely they’ll quickly learn not to wait for it and pay your invoice on receipt. However, if a client is consistently a collections problem, be sure to communicate the delinquency to the lawyer. Clients who do not pay are not worth keeping.

3. Show good clients your appreciation

As the firm tweaks its client base and draws in new clients, it’s important to ensure that your current valued clients do not feel ignored. Customer appreciation strategies, such as a clients-only newsletter or a monthly seminar, can go a long way in strengthening your relationships.

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