“Our clients don’t expect us to provide excellent service,” said no one, ever.
Law firms know the importance of providing great service; in fact, it’s hard to find a law firm website that doesn’t focus on client service as a differentiator. Here are just a few excerpts pulled from law firm websites: “committed to a deep understanding of a client’s business,” “provides superior client service,” “gives clients the focus and service of a boutique,” “delivers consistent and uncompromising quality and value to our clients,” and “values long-term client relationships.”
Underlying great client service is a strong understanding of the client’s business and goals. Clients expect lawyers to know their business and industry; but, this is easier said than done. There are many barriers to success when it comes to helping lawyers develop a strategic client mindset: they don’t have time, they don’t see the benefit, or they simply don’t know how to use client intelligence.
So, how do you break down these barriers to create a Client Intelligent Law Firm? Here are three keys to success:
- Developing a client mindset is a behavior change, and it takes time.
- Align Processes and Resources.
- Hold lawyers accountable.
1: Client Mindset
I have the unique opportunity to act as an outside partner to law firms as they build programs to support client growth. I typically come into the picture at the point when key leaders of the firm recognize the need to focus on developing client programs and are grappling with what this entails. Oftentimes, they’re looking for a magic bullet — something they can just implement and then move onto other things. Similar to other broad changes, shaping a firm’s client development mindset is a behavior change that cannot be consolidated into a single event. It takes planning, execution, and ongoing review and updates to be successful.
Compare this to any lifestyle change you’ve worked to achieve whether dieting, quitting smoking, or working out. Ten years ago (or possibly a bit longer ago!), I would joke that the only time you would find me running is if somebody was chasing me. Since then, I’ve realized the benefits of working out and have set and reset my goals. I’ve completed races starting with 5Ks, moving to Sprint and International distance triathlons and ultimately, a Half-Ironman Triathlon. None of this came easy, and I still need to work hard to structure my day and my mindset to prioritize gym time into my schedule.
Quick Tip: There’s no magic bullet. The firm needs a realistic plan to move towards a client mindset and recognition that it’s not one and done. It’s an ongoing program.
2: Align Processes and Resources
Successful client development programs are achieved through aligning processes and having designated resources, both human and technology, to support relevant initiatives.
More often than not, library and business development professionals want more time to help their firms to be more strategic when it comes to using client intelligence to grow clients and look for new opportunities. But, the reality is, they don’t have the time. Much of their time is focused on reactive client development vs proactive client development. For instance, they spend a lot of time responding to one-off research requests that might not even connect to a strategy. What if they had time to create in-depth knowledge of key industries or clients in order to proactively help lawyers find new opportunities or coach lawyers on HOW to use the research they are requesting?
Technology to support client development helps the scalability of programs. For instance, Introhive helps automate relationship intelligence; Oneplace provides a platform to streamline all types of client data; Manzama Base and Insights help automate daily, personalized intelligence to lawyers and uncover new client and industry opportunities. Most of this can be done by humans, but client intelligent firms know that technology can take on some of the more tactical, mundane work in order to free-up their key human capital resources to focus on the more strategic work.
How well are your firm’s processes and resources aligned to support a Client Intelligent culture? Take our quiz to find out whether your firm’s Client Intelligence Program is an Up & Comer, Rising Star, or Trend-Setter!
Quick Tip: Take inventory of your firm’s resources and processes. Figure out where there are gaps, and develop a plan to support a strong client intelligence program.
3: Lawyer Accountability
Finally, hold lawyers accountable to the firm’s Client Development Program priorities. This is not always easy, but it does become more realistic when the firm invests in creating a framework for a client development mind-set and investing in resources.
You will likely never have 100% adoption, but you can set an initial goal and increase participation goals as you continue to build the program and promote successes.
Quick Tip: You need to invest in and align resources to support a client development mindset, before either simply saying that “lawyers won’t do it” or expecting them to jump on-board.