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Make Talking to Clients a 2010 Resolution

Last week, I accompanied one of our client’s managing partner and marketing director teams on a client feedback interview. The first thing the managing partner said after leaving the client’s office was, “That was really fun! We should be doing this every month. It should be part of my job description as managing partner.” And he meant it. 

We advise law firms to start small. Select clients with whom they and the relationship attorneys are comfortable and to be upfront with the client that this is a pilot program, a “new” thing for the firm, and something they will do with all of their clients. The clients are usually flattered to be first and happy to participate. 

It was a typical client interview, a small private business faring better than most in this economy, but still feeling its impact. We spoke to two business people. 

There were no surprises, no hidden problems, no glaring opportunities. Yet, as we listened to the savvy business partners talk about their challenges, goals and interests, the knowledge we gained was immeasurable. We gained insight into the duo’s working relationship, saw how they view each other and the world, and learned what they really want to accomplish. It was enlightening. 

Later that day, I got around to reading the Sunday New York Times. “The Corner Office” column is a favorite. Last week’s interview with Cristobal Conde, president and C.E.O. of SunGard, really struck a chord for me. He says, “I try to see a client every day… They’ll tell me things – what are their biggest issues, what are their biggest bets. All this information is incredibly valuable.” He went on to describe how critical it is to take that information back and share it internally so the entire organization can benefit from the insights. How many law firm leaders talk to a different client every day and report what they learned to the entire firm?

So make it a 2010 resolution. Talk to a different client at least every month in 2010. It will be fun and they will tell you really valuable things!

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