Consumers have many choices when it comes to legal services, from do-it-yourself online legal services, alternative legal service providers (ALSP) and even the Big Four accounting firms have added legal work to their menu of services. How can your mid-sized firm compete with the growing competition?
For business clients, there several ways you can expand your offerings without having to invest too much time or money. Since you’ve already gained their trust in legal matters, now is the time to build loyalty and appreciation by providing them with solutions to help grow their businesses. Here are three ways to make it happen.
1. Encourage Innovation
When you started your law firm, it’s likely your team was bursting with entrepreneurial thinking and energy. Once the business grew, focus probably shifted to more organizational issues like employee management and profit and loss statements.
Even though your executive responsibilities may leave time for little else, that doesn’t mean your employees aren’t brimming with new ideas and fresh insights. Make it a point to encourage your team to voice their opinions on new ways of doing business and new areas the firm can expand into. Try these ways to bolster intrapreneurial thinking:
- Break down department walls and keep lines of communication open. Include people in meetings who might not traditionally have been invited.
- Have a contest for best new add-on service ideas. Assign teams (or have them create their own) so employees get to work with people outside their immediate department. At the end of the contest period, throw a “party” where teams can present their ideas and select judges to pick a winner. Then give the winning team the tools to make the idea work within the firm.
- Offer training. Have you noticed an employee with awesome graphic design skills or possibly a social media genius with thousands of followers? Nurture these skills by offering to pay for additional training. Then keep your ears and eyes open for opportunities to advise clients on ways to grow their businesses. For example, you may have a client tell you they’re having a hard time getting a handle on website analytics. A diverse staff with a large skill set could be just what your business needs to give your clients the right solutions.
2. Create an App
There’s an app for just about everything, including apps for law firms to connect with clients. Your clients are used to getting information wherever and whenever they want, and would benefit from an app that allows them access to their case or litigation information.
Plus, the self-serve portals could free up time for employees by not having to return multiple emails and phone calls with answers readily available in your system. Creating a client engagement app is easy to set up and there are a number of online app creators that make the process easy, such as AppyPie and MyCase.
Brainstorm about features you want on your firm’s app. Of course much of that depends on the needs of your business clients. Some ideas include:
- Documentation of in-office occurrences that could lead to lawsuits
- Records of witness statements
- Pictures of injuries
- Business expenses and receipts
- Employee infraction records
- Bankruptcy documents
- Entity creation and corporate compliance
- Business licensing, sales, and payroll tax registration
- Trademark and patent information
- Tax returns and other financial documents
It’s important to make sure you have the highest security systems in place before you give access to sensitive client information. Have the app developer regularly review coding to analyze for possible vulnerabilities. Develop a best practice for client usage such as only accessing material on a secure network and changing passwords often.
3. Make Partnerships
Finally, you can offer a wide variety of extra services without having to hire or shell out extra money by partnering with complementary businesses. Whether you simply accumulate a variety of referral services you think your clients could benefit from or make it official and barter services with another business, the idea is to be ready with an answer when your client asks if you know of any good small business accountants or digital marketing companies.
If a number of your clients are small or growing businesses, you can easily add corporate compliance services such as trademark research, incorporation filings, and more by partnering with online corporate filing experts. These programs act like a silent partner and take care of your client compliance issues such as switching from an LLC to a corporation and getting the right business licenses.
Find partners by asking your business clients for their recommendations and make it a point to attend local networking events to meet other business owners. Be sure and check reviews, chambers of commerce and their DNB standing before making any recommendations.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.
Nellie Akalp is the founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource and service provider for business incorporation, LLC filings, and corporate compliance services in all 50 states. Akalp and her team recently launched a partner program for legal, tax, and business professionals to help them streamline the business incorporation and compliance process for their clients.