One of the biggest malpractice blunders made by attorneys originates from a client’s complaint that the attorney has not effectively communicated with the client. Keeping in touch with clients even when you are not currently working on their legal matter can also be important in developing and maintaining a law firm client base. It may even result in return clients and client referrals.
Many clients have multiple email addresses and text their friends and family on smartphones. Attorneys need to keep on the radar with their clients by using methods that are convenient and comfortable for their clients. Many clients now expect this type of customer service when conducting business transactions, including working with their legal professionals. However, there is a right and wrong way to go about this. If you send out bulk email updates or newsletters to your clients, chances are you will end up blacklisted by ISPs and some corporate IT departments working hard to keep their customers from receiving spam emails.
iContact is a trusted, web-based product that has been on the market for several years and provides a number of services that attorneys may easily use to keep in contact with their clients. As a solo practitioner, I use iContact to minimize the amount of time it takes me to keep in touch with clients in my estate planning practice. I send out an email newsletter when there is an update in the law that I believe will affect my client’s estate plans in addition to an annual email reminding them to reevaluate their estate planning documents.
There are a number of email campaigns and tracking tools in iContact that once set up can make the process of publishing a law firm newsletter a no-brainer. Attorneys may use the software to send email blasts or law office newsletters to large numbers of clients while avoiding being blacklisted by spam filters. The iContact service complies with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 which requires that bulk emails provide the recipients with an address. Recipients are given the opportunity to unsubscribe to your email lists if they choose to or forward the email to friends and family. As far as avoiding advertising rules that prohibit open solicitation of legal services, iContact requires that you provide it with email addresses that you already have from clients and then you may also select an email confirmation setting that requires that the client confirm their subscription to your newsletter before sending your actual email newsletter.
Existing law office contacts and clients may be uploaded to the iContact contacts list from most standard address book programs using comma separated value (csv), excel spreadsheet or vCard (vcf). Some reformatting of your clients’ addresses may be required once the contacts have been imported, but the process is not that time consuming once inside iContact’s contact list manager. Emails may then be created inside iContact to include your law firm’s logo and any other images you wish to include. There are a large number of professional email templates to choose from in designing your email. Spam checks permit you to make sure before sending the email that it will not be caught in spam filters or blacklisted based on your email’s text, formatting or design. Just to be safe, send yourself a preview of the email from inside iContact first to see what your clients will view before sending it out.
You may also create different segments within contact lists to direct your emails to only the specific clients that you want to update. For example, if you had a firm with more than one law practice area, you could create separate client lists for each area of law. A law firm update or newsletter related to that area of law could then be directed only at the clients that would find that information useful. A business law practice might send out a regular reminder to business law clients to review and update their corporate or company records with the attorney. The newsletter could include any changes in the laws affecting the client’s business and any other tips or news the law practice wants to share. In this way, the law firm keeps in contact with its client base over the years without having to direct an email or traditional follow-up letter to each individual client.
Once an email is sent from iContact to your client list, you may track the success of that communication. The tracker shows you how many clients opened your email, how many times they opened and viewed the email, clicked on the links you provided and if any clients unsubscribed to your emails. This will also give you a good idea of how effective iContact is for your law practice as a way to keep in touch with clients.
While the bulk email tool is the primary component of iContact, the service also has a survey application where you may send your clients surveys to find out what they thought about you and your law firm. While some attorneys may be hesitant to ask clients their opinions on this subject, evaluating your law firm’s customer service may be a valuable tool to helping a law firm understand the delivery of legal services from the perspective of their clients.
Another valuable tool that comes with the basic iContact subscription is the ability to create autoresponders. If you have a law firm website or blog, place the code provided by iContact somewhere on your site inviting prospective clients to subscribe to your law firm newsletters. You can set up the autoresponder so that when a person enters his or her email address, iContact emails them your message which might include a simple thank you for subscribing to our site to a list of the legal services your firm offers.
Pricing for iContact is based on the number of contacts you import into the system. For under 250 email contacts, the monthly cost is a reasonable $9.95 a month. Tech support is included in the monthly fee, and the website itself provides video tutorials and other “self-help” methods if you get stuck on a feature.
As a way to use technology to keep in touch with clients, iContact one of the simplest and least expensive web-based methods out there. Sending out regular updates or newsletters through directed email keeps your law practice fresh in the minds of your clients without requiring that you devote a great deal of time or money to the process.