Imagine if your law firm was put to the test by a secret shopper – someone like TV celebrity guru Mary Portas, otherwise known as Mary Queen of Shops.

How would it fare?

After a high powered career in retailing, Portas forged a media career by visiting shops unannounced and then returning to offer advice on how things could be improved – all in the full glare of the cameras.

I’m not a massive fan of reality TV but I’ve always liked shows involving Portas.

Her comments could be quite blunt and sometimes hard for the struggling shopkeeper to take they usually ended up agreeing that she was right.

Now Portas has been drafted in by the government to help save Britain’s high streets.

She is to carry out a review and identify what local authorities and businesses can do to develop more prosperous and diverse city centres. She wants people to put forward ideas.

Well, helping High Street law firms to thrive would be a popular suggestion for Gazette readers I suppose but I don’t think Portas will be getting that specific.

So, as Portas is unlikely to arrive on your doorstep as a secret shopper, I’m prepared to step into the breach … or at least share my impressions of what happened when I went with my wife to update our wills recently at a medium to large High Street law firm.

First let me deal with the service. It was excellent.

The solicitor who dealt with us was friendly, clearly knew his subject inside out and was able to explain all the issues both easily and expertly.

In the end, with his help and advice, we actually ended up making a very simple will – the kind we could have made for a fraction of the price with cheaper providers, but we didn’t mind about that. It was comforting to know that we had explored all the avenues even if we didn’t necessarily follow them.

So I was impressed by the service but, in my self-appointed role as mystery shopper, I didn’t think much of the firm’s approach to marketing.

Even the most basic elements were missing.

We were given no information about the firm’s other services and so given no incentive to do more business.

We weren’t given any leaflets, newsletters or brochures.

Nor did we get a follow-up letter a few weeks later, thanking us for our custom and asking to browse through a brochure telling us more about the firm and its range of services.

Portas would be appalled. The firm in question spends a lot of money advertising to strangers in the local press but can’t promote itself for free to clients who walk through its doors and are sitting targets for cross-selling.

It wasn’t all bad though. We did eventually receive a letter containing a survey asking us to rate the service we received. I was impressed by that.

Did I fill out the survey and return it? Nah, couldn’t be bothered.

Does that mean the survey was a waste of the firm’s time and money? Absolutely not.

Getting clients to fill in a survey is helpful, of course, and can provide useful information, but that shouldn’t be its main purpose.

Its main function is simply to provide an excuse for you to communicate with clients; to remind them that you exist, to show them that you care and value their custom, to make them more inclined to return to you.

Anything else is a bonus.

So full marks for the survey but there’s been nothing since and that’s disappointing from a marketing point of view.

They ought to keep in touch and so develop our relationship by providing me with more information whenever possible.

This would not be hard to do. For example, a few months after we made our wills, the chancellor announced in the Budget that he would reduce inheritance tax by 10% when 10% of a person’s estate is left to charity.

Now that could be important news to me.

It might make me want to update my will again meaning more business for the firm.

But even if I keep it as it is, I would still welcome the information and feel well disposed towards a firm that would provide it for me. It would make me more inclined to use them again.

My solicitor should have told me about the change and missed a trick by not doing so.

Did your firm alert clients to the change? Does it alert firms to any legal developments?

So then, a mixed report from my mystery shopper outing.

My law firm may think I’m a little harsh with my comments about its marketing but it could have been a lot worse.

Imagine what the more formidable Mary Portas would say.

Or better still, imagine what she or any potential client would say about the marketing efforts at your firm.

Nick Kehoe is a former television and newspaper journalist. He is now managing director at law marketing firm Media Coverage.