Address books have evolved with 50 years of innovation since the invention of the Rolodex in 1956. The early 1980’s brought database software that was followed in the 1990’s by contact management software and personal digital assistants. Development slowed after the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 but quickly recovered with the introduction of smartphones and customizable software in the mid 2000’s. During the past decade, cloud-based services for managing client information have become less expensive, more popular, and easily accessed using mobile devices. The creative use of an address book can improve client relations, boost your reputation, and attract clients.
Using. Address books facilitate quick access to contact details for client communications. Keep in touch with clients by using an address book for the following activities:
- Distribute articles, newsletters or pamphlets on a monthly or quarterly basis
- Invite clients and prospects to firm events like open houses and seminars
- Recognize clients on special occasions using e-mail, note cards, and greeting cards
- Remind clients about available services
- Respond to inquiries with custom and semi-custom brochures
- Survey clients for satisfaction
- Provide updates on status of pending matters
- Track matters and clients
Creating. When selecting a paper or digital address book, consider features like ease of use, accessibility, and the ability to customize it to your practice. Inexpensive paper address books are available from companies like At-A-Glance, Day Timer, and Mead, but they lack the features of digital alternatives. Digital address books are available for free to users of Apple Mail, G-Mail, and Microsoft’s Outlook.com, but they aren’t as powerful as software designed for relationship management. A good choice for many solos and small firms is the address book feature of practice management software like Clio, FirmCentral, MyCase, and Rocket Matter. Also consider FLIP if you are looking for affordable software that is easy to use and sets up fast.
Maintaining. Assign responsibility to a staff member for creating and maintaining your address book. The staffer can also help you use the address book to reach out to clients with paper and electronic communications
Strategies. In addition to using an address book, you can improve client relations with tried and true strategies that endear you to clients, like setting reasonable expectations and being timely and transparent. Build credibility by being a good listener and simplifying complicated legal principles to make them understandable. Use communication channels that are appropriate to the situation – texting for urgent messages, e-mail for longer matters, and memorandum or letters for lengthy discussions. Consider whether a phone call or face-to-face meeting is appropriate when communicating about complicated issues.
Resources. Visit the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center for a Comparison of Client Management Software. For how-to guidance, read the ABA book about Improving Client Communications, GP’s article about Client Management Software, and the DC Bar Association’s list of Ways to Improve Attorney-Client Relationships. For continuing education, consider subscribing to a free lawyer marketing newsletter or a practice management blog.
Conclusion. Improving client relations can enhance your reputation and help you attract and retain clients. Firms that excel at client relations stand out in online legal directories and review websites like Google and Yelp. Using an address book and following the tips mentioned above can increase the stature and profitability of your law practice.