In recent interviews, clients have expressed great concern about the state of the associate ranks in their trusted outside firms. Concerns range from efficient and consistent staffing models to retention and succession planning.
“I need exposure to their associates they are bringing up. They probably have them, and I just don’t know them. Getting comfortable with new people takes time, and I am willing to invest in that.”
“He staffs leanly and keeps associates consistent deal to deal.”
“One of the things they do need to try and do is have people that they can push the work down to.”
“Associate turnover is a challenge. Retention of diverse associates is imperative.”
“I think the only area to improve would be to bring along some of the more junior folks and younger associates. We need someone we feel comfortable talking to when the partner is away.”
As a result, law firms are investing in more intentional and deliberate business development and client service skills training for associates. By focusing on business development and client management much earlier in their careers, attorneys are equipped to deliver a far better client experience. Also, most find greater fulfillment in their own careers, which helps law firms retain talent in a highly competitive environment. The clients, individual attorneys and firms all benefit!
To hone your client development and client relationship management skills, focus on these 10 critical areas:
- Communicate concisely, directly and in a language and format that is easy for your client to understand.
- Develop an area of expertise or niche in a specific practice or industry.
- Maintain connections across your network of contacts from college, law school and other social networks.
- Look at business development time as an investment in your future success.
- Demonstrate empathy. Put yourself in your client’s shoes when you are making decisions about how to spend your time and their money.
- Maximize time at conferences and other in-person meetings. Seek out multiple opportunities for meaningful and intentional interactions with clients and prospects before, during and after the event.
- Create good business development habits now. Prioritize business development activities regardless of billable workload.
- Be a connector. Learn as much as you can about your firm’s capabilities and expertise to help connect client needs to resources across the firm.
- Be proactive and solutions oriented. Proactive attorneys differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.
- Be intellectually curious. Ask questions to uncover opportunities and connections.