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At one time, customer loyalty punch-cards likely took up a significant portion of your wallet or purse. You had your favorite sub sandwich shop's card, your favorite café's card, and even your McDonald's coffee punch card. However, today, paper punch cards are rarely used as most businesses' loyalty punch cards have gone the digital route.
Regardless, customer loyalty programs are still incredibly effective at increasing business, particularly in the retail, airline, food, and service industries. However, when it comes to lawyers and law firms, should clients be offered rewards or discounts for loyalty? After all, technically, lawyers are part of the service industry.
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Clearly, a lawyer's customer loyalty rewards cannot be run like a sandwich shop if the purpose is to actually get repeat business and make money. Additionally, even if an entire practice is focused on a single area of law, like DUI defense, unique circumstances could result in serious ethical quandaries, particularly surrounding the budget and scope of the free representation (not to mention potentially being called out for encouraging drunk driving).
Generally, when it comes to the ethics of lawyers offering discounts, it's generally permissible, though there are definitely some grey areas, particularly if fees have been paid in advance. Additionally, depending on how the loyalty program is advertised or marketed to clients, there could be other ethical issues. However, in theory, offering a punch card that provided a percent based discount on the client's fifth, tenth, or eleventh separate legal issue, could potentially work (ethically, at least).
Rewarding Loyalty Without Losing Money
Every business's customers like to be rewarded for being loyal. But, in the legal sector, a returning client is already getting a significant discount as a returning client since you might not have to do as much leg work to get familiar with the business. So, perhaps offering more motivation might actually be unnecessary, if you ensure your clients are happy with your work.
Clients tend to return to the same attorney over and over again, so long as the work being done is good and cost effective. If you do a good job, your client should feel like their loyalty is being rewarded just by you accepting the representation again. If the quality of your work is subpar or your rates are too high, don't be surprised when your once loyal client forgets all about your punch card and finds a new attorney.