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Client Feedback, Service & Teams
3 minute read | 4 months ago

March Madness: Building a Winning Bracket

Photo of Nathaniel Slavin By: Nathaniel Slavin

If we could create a “client service” tournament, with each round determining winners and losers in the quest for delivering highly valued and differentiated client service, most partners at law firms would lose in the early rounds.

At the beginning and end of every year, we observe law firms move their focus from external activities to internal: collections, partner reviews and comp. Sometime around mid-February, firms begin to focus on the year already started. For those who fall prey to this cycle, here are the round-by-round best practices to keep an eye on the proverbial prize:

Round of 64: Avoiding an Upset

When asking clients which firms stand out from a service perspective, the conversation always shifts from firm to lawyer, and the client often starts praising the small boutique firm that does everything right and has a lock on certain work. Those firms are filled with lawyers who have the expertise but never stop communicating with clients about their needs. Those lawyers are nimble and win by knowing exactly what the clients want and then delivering.

Round of 32: Bringing the Bench

Too often we hear from clients who would love to expand the relationship but are not being courted. Partners fail to recognize areas of need at the client and then introduce those at the firm who would be a good fit to help solve the problem. Those outside counsel who are proactive in “looking around corners” and not just reacting to work being assigned will always hear about latent needs where other firms are underperforming or new needs that are a natural fit. Having regular off-the-clock conversations (including asking the simple question, “What are your biggest challenges in the next six months?”) can then bring the right resources into the relationship.

Sweet 16: Learning From the Last Round

Lawyers spends their entire careers continually learning about their areas of expertise. But the best rainmakers and most sought-after lawyers always take the time to debrief with clients and colleagues after deals or engagements to deconstruct what went well, where improvements could be made and what adjustments will best serve the clients in the future.

Elite 8: Executing New Plays

As competition becomes increasingly fierce, firms cannot just rely on what they have done in the past. They have to reinvest in bringing new solutions and constantly rethink the best ways to serve the client to stave off RFPs and avoid losing market share. It’s not about skill or experience at this point—it’s about the incremental improvements that can be made on a regular basis to meet clients not just where they have been but where they are going.

The Final Four: Putting It All Together

The firms that make it to this level have already done all the above (and more). Chances for success are optimized, the right people are in place and the lawyers and firm are constantly adapting to meet client needs.

The good news for firms is that getting to this level is as far as you ever need to go. Firms that have the infrastructure, culture and discipline to bring the voice of the client to every important decision have become client service champions.