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Most lawyers have an untapped source of new fees...

...from old clients.

Reseach conducted by Walker Clark LLC with our clients over the past twenty years confirms that the return on investment in keeping in touch with inactive clients -- even ones who haven't provided any work for years -- can be significantly better than the time, effort, and expense of looking for new ones. Just as current clients are usually the best source of new work, even clients from long ago can be redeveloped into profitable current clients. Moreover, even if the old clients don't have any work for your firm at the moment, by resuscitating the relationship a lawyer can make it more likely that the former client will recommend the firm to others.

So, matey, what's the best way extract this buried treasure in your client base? Here are three suggestions.

First of all, remember that communication is the key to successful client relations, whether you are working for that client today or last served the client years ago. Even if a client hasn't been active for years, the lawyer who worked with that client (or another lawyer if the original lawyer is no longer with the firm) should contact former clients regularly. We suggest a schedule like this:

  • Contact  former clients (clients who have been inactive for more than three years) at least every six months.
  • Contact former clients (clients who are currently inactive, but who were active within the past three years) at least every three months.

These freqencies usually are often enough to keep your firm active in the mind of the former or recent client, but not so frequent as to be considered junk mail.

Second, and speaking of junk mail, do not rely on your firm's standard newsletter to revive a client's interest. Most newsletters are never even opened, much less read. Take the small amount of time required to send a personally-addressed e-mail from your e-mail address.

Third, and most importantly, make it about the client, not you and your firm. Always ask how the client is doing. Limit and tailor the content of your e-mail to something that you believe will actually be of interest to the client. Offer to have a conversation about any concerns the client might have at the moment, and remind the client that you and your colleagues are always standing by, ready to assist when needed.

For this reason, we recommend that even the smallest firms should have a desktop CRM system available to, and used by, each lawyer, preferably one that requires little or no input from the lawyer and reminds when it's time to contact the inactive client. Efforts without this essential tool will be like going without a treasure map, a shovel, or even a talkative parrot on your shoulder.

Norman Clark


Walker Clark recommends NEXL CRM to our clients. Go to for more information. (Walker Clark LLC has no financial or other business interest in NEX,  and we do not receive any compensation or commission for our recommendation.)