Here is an easy measure of how well your firm might face up to the increasing competition in the legal services market: did your firm send out personalised Christmas cards this year?If you did, was it as difficult to sort out as it has been in previous years? Or did you settle for a few hand-written cards from the solicitors who could spare the time to do it? Or did you just not bother?

For the firms that have, well done – it’s an opportunity taken to remind your past satisfied clients that you are available to help them. But for many firms it’s a struggle. Questions abound, like: where is the list we used last year? Does it need updating? How many partners and staff need to check it before it’s sent out? Which client databases to use? Do we use the ‘Christmas Card check-box’ list in the practice management system? How long will it take to check it for rather important notes like ‘Mr. Smith (deceased)’, or ‘Ms Smith (she was Jones)’ or ‘Smith – do not act for these people’?

These are real examples of (false) name fields in live client databases I have seen. I still find it amazing that solicitors, highly trained people, known for their attention to detail, still cannot be responsible for entering data into a computer system in a regular manner.

If fee-earners and their support staff just take a moment to look at what they’re doing and the value that has to the firm, it would save many people a lot of time. If your firm can quickly and easily send out personalised cards and letters to defined groups of satisfied clients, then you have the magic ability to compete in the new market for legal services. Being able to do this easily is not just good because it helps the marketing people save time.

So, if the thought of sorting out the Christmas card list is dreadful every year, make sure you do something about it in 2010.