Towards the end of the year, our interview schedules slow down and we spend our days developing new content, cleaning up files and planning for the New Year. It is a great time to reflect and focus. A recent week of events made me realize the value of something we often take for granted: The internal prep call in advance of the client interview.
We have conducted thousands over the years, both interviews and prep calls, and candidly we have it down to a science. We easily navigate the key questions to solicit the most important information before going to meet with the client. We know how to put the internal lawyers at ease about the process. We have experience with so many industries and businesses that we often provide a valuable nugget or frame of reference unknown prior to the call. We quickly determine missed opportunities for the lawyers or firm and we are always able to walk away with specific information to make the interview valuable to the client. While it is a very common practice to all of us at WPG, it struck me that this exercise is highly valuable to law firms but not conducted enough.
Last week I conducted six prep calls for 2016 interviews. The process is simple. We ask for 30 minutes from the relationship lawyer and anyone he or she feels is critical to the relationship or bills a significant amount of time to the client on a regular basis. We begin by asking about the history of the relationship and the type of work they are currently handling for the client. We discuss the internal players, the goals and priorities of the business and department as well as opportunities and challenges that may be present. We ask about service or other challenges in the past, the knowledge of the competitive landscape and specific goals for the call.
The lawyers involved do not need to prepare in advance. Everything we discuss they know from years of experience, representation and personal and professional relationships with key individuals. However, what struck me last week was the fact that during each call a lawyer or marketing professional had an “aha” moment regarding the current relationship—a major aha moment during a 30-minute call for which everyone presumably had zero advance preparation and knew all discussion points offhand.
The reality is that far too often, this type of conversation is not occurring in law firms. Lawyers are not sharing insightful information about the client’s goals, direction, perspective, preferences and challenges. The marketing professionals are not always involved in key conversations that may provide essential information to improve overall client service and obtain important cross-selling opportunities.
Talk is cheap, and lawyers are good at it. If you do one thing in the New Year, schedule more time internally among lawyers and other team members in order to share your clients’ goals, priorities, communication preferences, competitive landscapes and opportunities. You do not need to have a formal client feedback interview program to share client preferences. Start here, start small and walk away with big, valuable rewards.