Client maintenance programs can be a boon to any business that’s providing professional or legal services to its clients. Not only are they a great way to generate a substantial and reliable base income for your elder law practice, they also enhance and improve the client/attorney relationship.
In general, a client maintenance program is an agreement through which a client prepays an annual fee in exchange for anytime access to certain services. For example, your firm’s client maintenance program could include free phone calls, emails, a pre-set amount of face-to-face meetings each year, or an annual meeting to review existing documents. It may also include a free meeting with a successor trustee in the event of your client’s illness or death.
Your clients will quickly realize the value in such a program. Offering this type of constant accessibility and support will build trust with your clients and enable you to better understand their needs. It will also allow you to identify opportunities to offer them additional services.
Allowing your clients to contact you or one of your colleagues when they have questions or needs, underscores the value of the services you provide.
Not ‘one and done’
Oftentimes, elder law clients consider the counsel and legal document preparation services you provide them as one-time transactions. They set up their estate planning, and long-term care or advance directives and then simply check it off of their to-do list. But treating these as one-off occurrences means missed opportunities to provide additional and potentially beneficial services to these clients.
It also means that forms and wishes become outdated or obsolete. Unfortunately, failure to update estate and other elder care planning documents often results in a large chunk of proceeds being diverted to lawyers, probate courts and the government in the form of higher than necessary fees and estate taxes.
Furthermore, when client contact isn’t consistently maintained plans become outdated and ultimately end up failing to meet the needs and requirements the client set out to achieve in the first place.
Benefits of a lasting relationship with your clients
When your clients feel empowered to contact you as needed and you are compensated for the time spent with them, the entire relationship becomes more beneficial. That’s why treating estate and elder care planning as an ongoing relationship will pay dividends to both you and the client. When clients know they can call you and don’t feel like a meter is running, they learn that they can rely on you and get the most out of your services. An annual program based on a set fee removes that barrier to open and more frequent communication.
If you’ve transitioned into elder law from another area of practice then you’re probably already familiar with the concept of client maintenance programs. You may have even had a client maintenance program in place. If you’re new to elder law and you are still growing your firm, then you may not believe there is much to be gained by offering your clients a client maintenance program. In reality, client maintenance programs are beneficial to firms of all sizes. For new or transitioning elder law attorneys they can be a valuable referral tool.
Making yourself accessible
How you structure your client maintenance program will depend on your specific areas of expertise, but in general you should consider offering those things mentioned above as part of your elder law practice’s client maintenance program. Remember, it’s all about accessibility. And every phone call is an opportunity, so make sure the point person/people within your firm are the right fit for cultivating client relationships and understand the importance of speaking your client’s language.
You’ll also want to tout the program and encourage your clients to use it. This will help you retain elder law clients and to increase your chances of gaining referrals based on the high level of service you provide. Well-served clients will quickly become your biggest evangelists, and will be much more likely to refer friends and family than those clients that only make one-time contact with your firm.
In short, a client maintenance program is one of the most effective business-generating tools in your arsenal. To your benefit, it helps establish a financially viable, stable practice that can thrive despite outside economic conditions. It improves the client relationship and increases your firm’s visibility in your community. You got into elder law to help people and by maintaining more regular and frequent contact, and remaining accessible to your clients, you’ll both get the most out of the relationship.