Leveraging the small firm advantage

Client communication is more than just a client understanding your legal advice. It also entails the client understanding the value they are getting in hiring you.

Kevin Cheung

Client communication is more than just a client understanding your legal advice. It also entails the client understanding the value they are getting in hiring you. There are countless articles selling the benefits of working in small firms, but do your clients and the community around you know why they should be hiring a lawyer there?          

More lawyer-client interaction

One of the most common complaints against lawyers is lack of communication. Many times a year, I will hear from somebody about their unhappiness over rarely interacting with their big-firm lawyer; they deal with assistants or junior associates but never the lawyer. In smaller firms, clients can enjoy more personal interaction with the lawyer. The benefit to the client is the peace of mind in knowing exactly who they are dealing with, and that they will not be shuffled off to another lawyer at different stages of the matter. In litigation files, a level of trust must be established between lawyer and client, and this can only happen over time and with multiple interactions. Delivering the service of more lawyer-client interaction is something that the small-firm lawyer can do that ultimately results in increased client satisfaction.    

Cost advantage  

Small firms have lower overhead and may not be slaves to the billable hour. However, the true cost advantage in hiring a small firm is the efficiencies derived from having fewer cooks in the kitchen. While larger firms can sell the “team of lawyers” approach, a team may not necessarily serve the client well, depending on their matter. The more people involved in the file, the more potential there is for miscommunication, duplication of work and the client overpaying for having multiple lawyers look at or hear the same thing. Small firms do not have the luxury of a team of lawyers, and this fact must be leveraged for the client’s benefit.   

Selectiveness of cases
For litigation files, it should be communicated to the client that small firms, by virtue of their size, cannot be volume firms. They have to be selective about the cases they take on, lest they stretch themselves too thin. Small firms also have the flexibility to take on certain files that may be “too small” for larger firms. If a small firm decides to take on a particular case, the client can rest assured that the firm is fully committed to maximizing results.   

Small firms do not mean worse results
The client needs to understand that the size of the firm does not guarantee the success of the file. Small-firm lawyers will often go toe to toe with larger firms and be just as successful. In fact, in leveraging increased lawyer-client interaction and small-firm efficiencies, small firms can level the playing field and increase the chances of success.         

While all of the above can be advantages to hiring a small firm, they are meaningless unless the lawyer deliberately leverages them for the client’s benefit. If your clients are not benefitting from the small-firm advantage, then it is time to reconfigure how you offer services so that they are getting the benefits. Working as a sole practitioner or in a small firm has its advantages, but the sustainability of your business depends on clients realizing those advantages.

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