At a time when legal services can often be seen as interchangeable, whether choosing between two law firms or deciding between a law firm and an alternative legal service provider, the quality of client service can be a significant distinguishing factor.
On February 16th, I joined Ilene Marquardt of Wells Fargo and Elena Antonetti of Travelers for a special webinar hosted by ACC’s Real Estate Network and ACC’s Corporate and Securities Law Network, where we discussed the subject of client service.
The discussion revolved around how lawyers (law firms and in-house counsel) can provide exceptional service to their various stakeholders, including line managers, corporate leaders and other constituents. Some key takeaways include:
The commitment to the service being provided is, at times, as important as the service itself. By carefully aligning with client expectations and striving to exceed them whenever possible, law firms and legal departments can differentiate themselves from competitors.
Ask your client (and do a deep dive) into what they want and how they want it delivered. Understanding the client’s business and their uniqueness is an essential part of being a good lawyer.
Effective communication is critical, both in terms of substance and the process involved.
Empathy is essential. It enables legal professionals to understand the needs of businesspeople and contribute to their success.
Leadership is key. Create a culture of engagement where every member of a legal team is empowered to contribute meaningfully.
Communicate internally to your group what you hear from the client. Don’t assign work piecemeal without providing the context and, whenever possible, the whole picture.
Your people are always watching. As a leader of a department, a firm or a practice group, what you say is important, but what you do speaks even louder. People who work for you, whether other lawyers, paralegals or other professionals, take their cues of acceptable behavior from their leaders. Inspire others and encourage the team to embrace their work with passion and commitment.
Law firms and legal departments can excel at client service by using systems such as CRMs to capture information so that when a new colleague joins the team, they can access the necessary information about the project, the key players, the financials and other nuanced information. There are a million other reasons for implementing a great CRM.
Add value beyond legal advice. Law firms can find ways to extend the CLE and management training they may already do for their own lawyers to all of their clients. It can be delivered as a value-added proposition.