As summer comes to a close, many of us are still navigating these uncertain times. Amid the difficulties, law firm clients need their outside counsel to continue adapting in how they deliver service, value, and the best possible client experience.
What remains true is that engaging with clients in a meaningful way is as important—if not more important—than ever. Leading into the fall, we wanted to share with you a few strategies to engage with your clients in a substantive way.
- Call your clients (again). In April and May, we worked with many firms on how to have important Client Conversations to ask them the fundamental questions: How are you being impacted by COVID-19 both personally and professionally? And what can we do to help? While the answers were meaningful and helped shape law firm client service strategies, they addressed the immediate needs. Months later, your clients’ needs are evolving and their priorities are shifting. In one recent conversation with a general counsel, she said, “I don’t see my team fully coming back to the office even in a year or more if ever. We are more efficient, we are more engaged, we are less distracted, and we are working as a team better than ever. But I don’t think our law firms are keeping pace with how we are rapidly evolving how we operate and function.” Stay connected to your clients and re-ask those same questions plus new ones.
- Make connections. With virtually no in-person meetings and personal networking nearly impossible, clients are not attending events and have less opportunity to network with peers. Some firms have created an entire menu of virtual ways to connect clients, including very fun social events. Short of that, host virtual networking meetings using remote platforms and have one or two themes so your clients with like interests can hear from and learn from their peers. In firms where we have done rainmaker assessments, one of the commonalities that help rainmakers build client loyalty is being able to intuitively connect clients to one another to support their professional growth. Don’t stop doing that just because you can’t meet in person. If you haven’t started, now is the time.
- Share information. Clients rely on outside counsel to share what’s trending in markets. Be systematic in sharing information with other clients about how some organizations are grappling with challenges so that clients don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Clients are busier than ever, and sharing strategies and ideas is a shortcut to adding value. In our recent survey and report on the impact of COVID-19 conducted in partnership with ALM Intelligence, we learned what’s top of mind for clients right now and what they value from law firms today. Their top priorities are: thinking and solving problems proactively, understanding the company and industry, and keeping the client informed. Build on that.
- Share internally. If your firm isn’t regularly communicating client experiences, client wins, and how individuals and individual groups of lawyers are adding value to their client relationships, start doing that. Then find the clients that would benefit from those creative ideas and share them.
- Talk about money. It’s top of mind for all clients. Ask them about their budgeting timing and plans, any changes they anticipate making and whether or not they are looking for novel ways to engage outside counsel and manage their legal spend. We learned in that same survey that 75% of the clients who responded anticipated their outside counsel to remain the same or increase in the third quarter of 2020. Do you know if that’s true for Q4 and Q1 2021? They do.
Fall is always a great time to connect with clients and ask the most important questions about their needs and their plans. Don’t wait for them to come to you with a problem. In a time of great uncertainty, make that extra effort to be proactive.