Fall is one of our busiest interview seasons at Wicker Park Group. Just last month, I conducted over 30 individual interviews. The companies ranged in size, revenue, region, complexity and legal department sophistication, yet the feedback themes were very consistent and tended to focus on communication. Firms received praise and appreciation for frequent, collaborative, consumable communication, or clients were frustrated with a lack of responsiveness, practical advice and/or managing expectations.
There were stories of praise and differentiation regarding a firm’s client service because “the billing department was kind and respectful” to the assistants at the company. Another firm received additional work because it “so clearly communicated a commitment to women and diversity.” And many clients stated they were unaware of any expertise or depth at the firm beyond the current matter, a clear opportunity for improved communication.
The need for increased and better communication is obvious. For the most part, the clients are all looking for the same thing. They simply have not been offered the opportunity to communicate what matters most to them.
While we can’t get to every client in a formal feedback setting, the feedback doesn’t always have to be formal (and it should be ongoing). If I look at our most valuable feedback, it usually relates to a few questions. If you are looking for the magic bullet to improve your current relationships, grow the work beyond your current representation, learn what matters most to your clients or learn how your competitors are wowing your clients, pick up the phone or go out and visit your client and ask these important questions:
- What is working about our current relationship that we need to be sure to continue?
- What can we specifically do to serve you better?
- What do you appreciate most about your most valuable outside counsel relationships?
- How can we make your life easier?
- What drives you crazy about your outside counsel relationships?
- What are your key priorities and initiatives for 2017?
While I have spent more time on and in planes, trains, Ubers and taxis than I would like to admit in recent weeks, it has been a particularly gratifying time. The interviewees have never been happier to provide feedback, and we are delivering incredible value and concrete recommendations to our clients.
It’s a crazy time of year, but you need to make time for these questions if you haven’t asked them lately. Your clients are eager to share their feedback, and you’ll be surprised at what a few simple questions can do to drastically improve your relationships.