LI Feature Legal Industry/Business Management

Getting the Most From Client Surveys

Keeping in touch with your clients’ needs is critical to running a successful firm.

Client surveys are essential to the success of a law firm. They present a unique opportunity to hear feedback from those that the firm serves, as well as have the power to change how the firm is run. By providing surveys to your clients as well as taking the feedback into consideration, you’re ensuring the longevity of your firm.
Kylie Ora Lobell

“Every business should listen to its customers,” says Jay Reeves, a consultant and former solo practitioner and corporate lawyer. “This is true whether you’re selling iPhones, avocados or legal services. You want to know if your clients are happy when they leave your office — and, if so, why. That way, you can identify what’s working and keep doing it.”

That said, it’s even more important to find out if your clients are unhappy. “Otherwise you won’t know your weak spots, and you won’t be able to target specific aspects of your practice that need improvement,” says Reeves.

The first step in improving customer satisfaction is to come up with the right survey questions to ask.


Clients should be segmented into a few different groups. Then, you can determine the questions depending on what kind of group they’re in.

For example, Reeves says that if you’re a relatively new firm, you should focus on general topics, like whether the firm was prompt in returning a phone call, if parking was convenient, if the initial interview with long enough or too long, and if the consultation fee was reasonable.

For firms that have been in practice a while, Reeves recommends asking more specific questions, like whether clients visited their new website, if they read the client blog or newsletter, if they received sufficient notice of court dates, and how long they had to wait before meeting with lawyers.

“The best — and easiest — way to find out if clients are satisfied is to ask them,” says Reeves. “Otherwise, you are just guessing. And it is not enough just to ask. You also have to listen — really listen — to how they respond. Listening is a sign of respect. It shows you care. It builds relationships.”

Additionally, you should ask if the firm has been responsive, if clients feel the firm adds value to their projects, and what is their overall evaluation of the firm.

Another key element: brevity. Reeves says that writing up 10 or 12 questions is ideal, but no more, because you don’t want to overwhelm the client.

Sterling Miller, Senior Counsel at Hilgers Graben PLLC, adds that respondents should be able to complete the survey in 15 minutes or less. “The shorter, the better. People are busy and already taking the time to respond,” he says. “The quality of the answers deteriorates the longer the survey is.”

Adding radio buttons, drop-down options, and some open text boxes will make the survey more interesting and keep people engaged, too.


The easiest ways to send out client surveys these days include email, text messages and Google forms, says Jared Correia, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting. You should aim to get a good cross-section of respondents so that you’re not acting on the outliers. “Then, the survey will identify a particular trend.”

If Correia was going to deploy a survey, he says, he would focus it on the practice areas of the firm. For example, he’d send a specific real estate survey to the real estate clients.

Miller says that when he conducted his own client survey, he used a free online survey tool and sent the questions to his clients who were vice presidents. He and his team realized that was too small of a data pool, so they extended the survey to managers and a couple levels down after that. “Then we sent it to everyone. Even if they don’t respond, you build goodwill just asking people for their opinions.”


It’s inevitable that you will get some results that are critical of the firm’s performance. But it’s an opportunity for growth.

Client surveys are usually anonymous, so you can’t directly respond to criticisms and feedback unless someone volunteers his or her information. But Miller says that at the end of his client surveys, he includes an area where clients can give their contact information and speak about an issue at length if need be. After he received the results from his surveys, he looked over them and then presented a summary of findings with the whole department. Staff members who received negative feedback were dealt with one-on-one, and not in a group setting.

Once everyone is briefed on the survey answers, Miller and his team came up with four to six takeaways. They then worked from those to determine goals for the next year. “We tasked people with coming up with ideas for themselves or the department as a whole,” Miller says. “There’s a lot you can do with a survey.”

Correia says that when you receive survey results back, it’s best to brainstorm how to fix any problems through committees.

“If there is a partnership where a lot of lawyers have to make a decision, it can be hairy. It can be hard to get all lawyers on the same page. Set up a committee for marketing shared by a few attorneys and support staff,” he says. “They get together and make recommendations, and then the firm votes on them.”

Everybody should be involved in the vote, not just the lawyers. According to Reeves, you should be open about your survey with your team so that they can contribute to the advancement of the firm. “Keep the survey results in-house,” he says. “Share them with everyone involved in the chain of client service, from receptionist to managing attorney. Use the data to tweak procedures and improve performance, not to admonish staff.”

Though it may be harsh to hear some of the feedback, ultimately, your firm is going to grow because of it — and it’s important not to take the results personally.

“This is not about you,” Reeves says. “It is not an exercise in building self-esteem. It’s about your clients, and creating an awesome law practice that delivers consistent, top-quality service.”