At a recent law firm retreat, I led a session with practice group leaders on what drives client loyalty and what role those factors can play in times of uncertainty (and in times of prosperity). The themes and ideas we explored are applicable to any lawyer leading teams, whether the team is centered around a practice, an industry, a geography or any other group.
Here are the keys to success:
- Communicate effectively. This entails prioritizing why the group is meeting, what the goals are of the time together and sharing group insights that can be ported across all relationships within the group. Too often lawyers meet to review activities—that can be done in advance and left open to question, but just talking about what was done in the past is never enough.
- Create and foster a collaborative environment. Review best practices in client service, client wins and adaptations to client needs to share what is working as well as initiatives that are less successful. With concrete examples, participants will naturally collaborate on how the ideas and strategies working with one client are relevant to others.
- Develop a clear strategy. Without a clear strategy, groups get mired in administrivia and passive participation. The strategy we recommend is incorporating the voice of the client, client wins and losses, trends and other insights that will impact where the work is going.
- Map strategy to the firm’s overall strategy. Instead of living in a top-down leadership environment where the firm strategy is delivered and then expected to be acted on, take the experiences of the group and map them back to the goals set out in overall firm strategy. Then share that with leadership to validate the successes and challenge the plans of firm strategy.
- Be prepared to pivot! A plan is just that. When circumstances change, the faster you can refocus time and energy the better the group will adapt to changing circumstances.
- Share and celebrate the wins. The highest functioning firms have a throughline between all groups that feed the firm’s successes into an experience database. Clients always want to know what interesting things are happening at the firm that they could benefit from understanding and implementing.
- Embrace change. Be willing to adjust and reset changes brought by the client as well as new technologies, ideas and innovations (and keep in mind that great innovation is often an incremental improvement to something already in place).
- Bring the voice of the client to key decisions. For decades we have been preaching that nothing speaks louder than the voice of the client. Bring that voice to meetings. Highlight the successes of individuals and groups when praised and share trends around client needs at the macro and micro level.
- Set clear expectations. Don’t assume that everyone understands what is being asked. Put in place and use firm professional resources to create expectations and goals and then track the success of those goals. Make sure the group’s expectations are being met along the way.
- Have KPIs. Similar to goals, identify what can be measured as the key performance indicators. These may be new matters or cross-selling, invites to pitch in a non-RFP format or adding value in creative ways that can be replicated across client relationships.
- Empower team members. Delegate responsibilities in a way that empowers team members, which will naturally incentivize them to participate in a meaningful and measurable way (and allow the group to accomplish more tasks).
- Lead by example. The last one is obvious and critical. Do what you are asking the team members to do and hold yourself accountable as a leader to a standard that is greater than any other team member.