In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 podcast, Guy is joined by Kate Stoddard. Kate is the Chief Marketing Officer at Kelley Drye & Warren where she leads their business development strategy. Kate is responsible for the creation of branded marketing and the communications program at the firm. Lastly, she is also a member of the firm’s client service and innovation committee and sits on its Steering Committee. In today’s episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Kate joins us to discuss how she promotes a client-centric philosophy at her law firm.
1. What is the biggest challenge to institutionalizing a client service philosophy in the law firm setting?
I think there are a number of features of how law firms are structured that can make client service a challenge. Fundamentally firms are collections of individual practitioners, who have discreet relationships with their clients and every client is different, every case is different and every lawyer approaches the matter with their own unique expertise and perspective. Another consideration here is the fact that lawyers are often not trained specifically on client service. They studied the law, they learned from practical experience and from mentors but this means that two lawyers, at the same firm, can have vastly different professional development experiences and really internalize different lessons about client service. So the big question really is, given that the practice of law is often an individual endeavor, how can you ensure consistent client experience?
2. How did you develop the firm’s client service standards?
Well, Kelley Drye has been around a long time. We have a long history of partnering with clients and problem solving together so really this isn’t rocket science or something new and innovative. Several years ago, we decided to put more structure and formality around what we believe to be the core of our service standards. And we really thought it was important that it be a collective effort of the partnership, and so we facilitated breakout discussions at an annual partner retreat, during which the partners discussed the definition of various service standards and what they mean in practice. The result of that exercise was some agreement on fundamental service principles. We made action plans with specific items that lawyers really of all levels can incorporate into their practice. And so we developed that pamphlet of the client service standards, again, along with a menu of action items and distributed that around the firm to everyone.
3. How did the pandemic have an impact on both the client standards and the firm’s ability to consistently deliver a positive experience?
Well, certainly, I think the pandemic has encouraged us to go back to basics. I talked about empathy before. I think a lot of the fundamentals of client services understand the preference of the client and particularly with what people have had to go through during the pandemic. Different working arrangements have different stressors on people’s time both professionally and personally. It’s even more important to understand that clients’ goals, objectives, and personal preferences for communication are something that we really need to focus on throughout the pandemic.
4. How have you been able to help lawyers sort of switch that lawyer thinking, if you will, from a very transactional type of thinking to a more client service type of thinking?
Well, I think, keeping the business in mind is so important and helping the lawyers understand that you know the client has a business to operate a goal to achieve. They have their own clients to serve, they have their own bosses to keep happy, and management and boards to please. So it’s understanding what the expectations are of all of those constituents, asking the client what metrics are you measured upon and what are your goals here. We’re helping the lawyers put themselves in the clients’ shoes and understand the business objectives of what the client is hoping to achieve.
Despite the transactional nature of the legal field, lawyers must keep in mind that clients are at the center of everything they do, and they should remain the central focus. Keeping a client-centered approach even during the midst of the pandemic is crucial to a strong lawyer-client relationship.
You can find Kate Stoddard on LinkedIn.