As has become somewhat of a tradition here at Wicker Park Group, we use August as an opportunity to visit some essential themes in building client loyalty. So, it’s time to start planning for the end of summer and take stock of what law firms and more specifically individual lawyers can do to deliver extraordinary client service.
- Billing and budgets: No matter how often clients talk about fees and billing arrangements, we still see a massive gap between when clients build budgets and when, if ever, outside counsel actually have a focused conversation on the topic. And too often, lawyers and firms send rate increases months after budgets are set. Take the time now to ask clients when they set their budgets and any anticipated changes. Last year one client told us they were in the third consecutive year of mandated reduction in outside counsel spend. If that’s happening and you don’t know, it’s too late.
- Strategic initiatives: Beyond the budgets and fees, many clients have strategic initiatives being rolled out. Currently, many of those are related to legal operations and infrastructure, but there are a wide variety of topics we hear about ranging from corporate social responsibility to outsourcing to technology investments.
- Conferences and events: Firms spend time and money going to conferences. But are they the right ones? Ask clients where they plan on going or want to go in 2020. If they are going, go with them and have a plan for what they want to accomplish. If they can’t go, find out what they want to learn, attend and report back what you learned.
- Introductions: If you know your client’s interests, goals and strategies, you find out common needs across clients. Take the time to be thoughtful about what your clients need to be successful and connect them to other clients and relationships that will be mutually beneficial.
- Best practices: Time and again in-house counsel tell us in interviews that outside counsel know things they aren’t even thinking about—things that aren’t on their radar but should be. You have a perspective and access to information clients are genuinely interested in and would benefit from. Often in-house counsel are naturally isolated and simply don’t have the opportunity to hear from peers. Outside counsel are particularly well-positioned to be thoughtful in how they share information and what they share, and time and again we hear in-house counsel say sharing information drives loyalty.
- Mindful communication: It seems every firm is talking about health, wellness and taking care of people. Mindfulness is a specific tool that can literally rewire the brain and reduce stress, but there’s a more practical application. Be mindful of how you communicate to your clients and when you communicate. It’s not just what you say but when and how you say it. Don’t send an email late at night if it doesn’t need a late-night response. Don’t send a memo when bullet points will suffice.
Every year the pressures are greater and greater both on firms and the clients they serve. Take the time now to invest in your clients. It always pays off.