Today our guest Aric Press, founding partner of the law firm advisory group PP&C Consulting, talks about the importance of relationships, particularly, the relationship law firms have with their clients, relationships strengthened and deepened and made more healthy through better and richer communication via client interviews.
Aric Press is a founding partner of the law firm advisory group PP&C Consulting. Prior to that, Aric was a writer and editor for many years at Newsweek, then served as editor in chief of The American Lawyer and then its parent company, ALM Media for 16 years.
How important is client feedback to a law firm?
Client feedback is critical, particularly in the current competitive climate. For all of the recent talk of change in the legal market, one constant has remained: this is a relationship business. And, relationships are strengthened and deepened and made more healthy though better and richer communication.
It’s not that law firms and lawyers don’t talk with their clients, but there’s a need for people outside the relationship, like heads of law firms, heads of departments, heads of marketing, and sometimes, independent third parties, to go and talk with clients about the health of the relationship, what the firm is doing well, what its competitors are doing better, what the needs of the client might be going forward.
Note that this discussion of “client” generally refers to in-house lawyers of businesses that have a relationship with the firm.
What happens after you get the feedback? Is there a preferred process?
Process is important but even more important is attitude, which start from the top. The firm’s leadership needs to be committed to using and acting on the information gathered, whether it be good or bad. The relationship partner is central in the feedback loop when it comes to attention to client needs – or the lack of it.
Develop processes internally that deliver a high level of service. It’s easy to say and hard to do. It requires a commitment and follow up and checklists and targets and goals and holding people accountable and rewarding good behavior and chastising bad – that’s the sort of blocking and tackling that can take a good relationship and make it a great one.
Clever use of technology that allows you to automate alerts that aid in the relationship can help but it’s not a substitute for the human relationship that soothes anxiety and promotes confidence. Technology is not going to eliminate the need for a skilled, empathic human, it’s going to accentuate that need and lawyers with those skills will prosper and triumph.