My colleague Shari Robinson and I met for coffee recently and, inevitably, we spent some time talking shop about client and business development efforts in law firms. Shari always brings a pragmatic and enthusiastic perspective to the discussion, drawing upon her sales background and time at one of the Big Four accounting firms. We got to talking about the importance of having a client-centric strategy, what that really means and what kind of resources are required to successfully execute.
We know through our experience that there is value in having a rigorous and standardized approach supporting a firm’s client relationships, at the very least to defend those relationships against encroachment by traditional competitors and new market entrants. This is much easier said than done, though the fundamental principles are uncomplicated. What’s key is having formal and documented processes and procedures, something like a playbook that can be applied to any lawyer’s practice, any area of expertise, any significant client relationship.
Below we have set out some of the cornerstones of developing, implementing and sustaining a client-centric strategy:
- Consistent and standardized processes or methodologies for developing new opportunities and clients, and defending existing client relationships. Some of the most meaningful tactics contained in the methodology include client teams, formal client feedback programs, go/no-go decision making around responding to RFPs, regular internal check-ins/checkpoints to keep things on track.Rigorously apply these processes. They are there to maintain a client-first focus during busy times (and, frankly, during times when enthusiasm is in low supply). They are also utilized to maintain objectivity and purpose, which provides for efficiency and sustainable revenue growth.
- Coaching for individual lawyers and teams. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to turn to someone who doesn’t really have any skin in the game but who is 100% committed to helping you achieve your goals. Coaches -in any form- are there to help you/the team think through obstacles and inject some objectivity.
- A clearly articulated value proposition, relevant to the client. If you are reading anything written recently by Casey Flaherty, you can conclude that this is something all firms continue to struggle with. A value proposition is “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers.” Put another way, a value proposition “defines the kind of value a company will create for its customers.” This needs to be defined for your firm, practice group and you, as an individual.)
- Create a client service policy. What does it mean to be client-centric? What are the expectations for the firm, practice group and individual lawyer? Create a set of standards or protocols that enhance the clients’ experience in dealing with the firm.
- Use technology to support these processes and to make them consistent and timely and to make YOU more efficient.
Phew. It sounds like a lot of work. It is. Why bother? In short, you don’t have time to boil the ocean. Focusing how you use your time and energy, and relying on processes with built in efficiencies, will result in material gains, greater success and ultimately a more profitable practice.
Special thanks to Shari Robinson for co-authoring this article. Shari is a client-focused marketing and business development consultant with global experience in sales, a big Four accounting firm and law. She creates processes and procedures to support client-centric behaviours.
 Oxford Dictionary.
 Harvard Business School, http://www.isc.hbs.edu/strategy/creating-a-successful-strategy/pages/unique-value-proposition.aspx