Client service is becoming more and more important in professional services. But do you know what clients want from lawyers? Do you know how to exceed expectations? Chambers and Partners have undertaken interesting research to identity the top five qualities that clients want from lawyers. I recently had coffee with one of my old colleagues who now holds a senior in-house counsel role in a national corporation. We chatted about some recent development in the legal market and soon began to discuss the things that were important to her when engaging external law firms. We also examined what law firms could do better based on her experience working for and briefing out to a number of different legal firms from two partner practices to national firms. With her permission I’ve set out a summary of what we discussed below.
Client service equals problem solving
The best way to impress me is to think of how you as an external lawyer fits in with my company. Your main aim should be to solve my problem.
Good client service means putting yourself in my shoes. What do I as a client want from lawyers? Why should I choose your law firm? I have the choice of a number of law firms but the best ones contain lawyers who think like an in-house counsel. That means they are engaged as a stakeholder and give me workable and realistic solutions. Make sure your recommendations can be practically implemented with regard to the size and budget of my organisation.
Give me ‘business ready’ commercially sound advice
To exceed expectations I need advice that can be understood by my company’s commercial manager, the directors or the CEO without the need for me to spend time redrafting what a lawyer sends me. Don’t write in legalese or use Dickensian language. Ensure your advice clearly identifies any business risks. However, don’t be scared to think ‘outside of the box’ and provide me with an innovative solution to my legal problem.
I’m a busy person so if you make my job easier then I am more likely to keep briefing you
When giving me advice you should focus on the objectives of my business. Good client service means letting me know how applicable law or a particular case affects what my business is trying to do. Your advice should help my organisation get results and help increase performance of my business.
Communication, communication, communication.
What clients want from lawyers? Be accessible. I don’t expect you to be tied to your desk waiting for my call. But I should be able to reach you by phone, mobile or email, or if I leave a message I should receive a prompt call back. If my instructions aren’t clear let me know – I may be the only in-house lawyer in my company juggling 15 different matters and 4 different external firms.
It makes me look bad if I promise to provide a piece of work to someone in my organisation based on when you promised to send it to me by. Meet the deadlines you propose to me. If a delay is unavoidable let me know well in advance so that I can manage by organisation’s expectations.
Make your billing model and fee estimates transparent so that I don’t get a nasty surprise when you invoice me at the end of the month
In reality no company has an unlimited legal budget but the majority of us come from private practice and we know legal services aren’t free. What we don’t like is to agree hourly rates and a fee estimate and that estimate is vastly exceeded Keep me up to date and give me early notice if the work will take more time or cost me more than you anticipated.
Make time to ask me for feedback
Sometimes I will be too caught up to let you know if you have done a great job as my external legal adviser. Asking for honest feedback also means that I can tell you what you can do better next time. Keep me updated on changes in the law as a ‘value add’. This allows me to brief my business and keeps your law firm fresh in my mind.
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