Reputation and trust remain more important to winning new business than price, despite the push for greater transparency, according to a massive client satisfaction survey.
In two-thirds of cases, client loyalty, referrals by recommendation, or a firm’s reputation mattered more than price, which only 4% of clients named as their priority.
Where cost was a factor, the main thing was the sense that a firm was being transparent over the way it charged.
The network of mid-sized and smaller firms, LawNet, has conducted 70,000 surveys and took 5,000 anonymous experience reviews over the past six years as part of its ISO 9001 audited excellence mark.
The results found that, among clients citing reputation or trust as key factors in choosing solicitors, 30% were existing clients, 19% followed recommendations, and 17% made a selection based on “people or character of the firm”.
“[Clients] also wanted to know the benefits of using the firm and to be kept updated as work progressed, highlighting the need for firms to tackle negotiating and sales skills, as well as strong client reporting,” it said.
This reflects other research suggesting that buyers cannot differentiate between firms, yet only 28% of firms in another survey by Insight6 on client experience explained why a client should choose them.
Similarly, studies have found that, while most lawyers think they explain their charges clearly at the outset, fewer clients agree.
The network claimed anonymous reviews indicated overall customer satisfaction performance had improved among its member firms by 15 percentage points between 2013 and 2019, and now stood at 67%, almost 10% higher than the rest of the legal sector.
Helen Hamilton-Shaw, LawNet’s member engagement and director, said: “Many lawyers see negotiating as part of their core skill set, yet our research suggests there is often a skills gap when it comes to talking about costs with clients.
“But it is an issue that responds well to targeted action, once firms know they need to develop skills.”
The LawNet collaborative network was founded in 1989 and has 70 member firms. Its objective was to enable “independent law firms [to] access big firm resources and benefit from collective purchasing, shared knowledge, best practice and expertise”.