Most law firms in today’s market accept the notion that they need to be ‘client-facing’. After all, as the saying goes:
“Without clients, there is no law firm.”
To help facilitate their client-facing business development and marketing activities, many firms have introduced Key Account Management (KAM) programs around their largest 10, 20 or so clients (depending on the size of the firm, this could be a lot more or slightly less).
Once fairly secretive – for fearing of possibly off-siding any clients who did not have KAM programs in place around them – the KAM methods and processes firms have put in place over the past decade or so are now transparent and open. Indeed, nearly every law firm now employs a client account manager for the designated KAM program client.
The problem I have with this currently accepted and exercised approach to managing client-facing relations is two-fold:
- Firstly, ‘Key’ Account Management programs typically only include ‘key’ players of the firm, many of whom are very busy people.
- Secondly, and far more importantly, in a world of ever increasing service provider options: being ‘client-facing’ is no longer a differentiator – in order to differentiate your law firm in today’s market you need to move both the internal and external conversations you have beyond being client-facing, today your firm needs to be ‘client-centric’.
So what do I mean when I say you need to move your firm’s conversations and behaviour beyond being ‘client-facing’ and towards being ‘client-centric’?
In short this means your firm needs to have a client-centric based philosophy embedded throughout the firm – from Managing Partner to Receptionist, from Secretary to Head of Business Development or Human Resources. In other words, all who work at the firm should know and understand the world in which your client lives in and what is important to them.
In today’s world, if your law firm truly wants to differentiate itself and be considered the ‘trusted advisor‘ to your client, then the firm as a whole needs to:
- Understand the commercial and legal issues your client faces on a daily basis,
- Understand why it is your client needs to use your firm’s services, and
- Understand how your client uses your firm’s services (i.e., which lawyers/practice groups, etc.).
And you can help your law firm achieve its goal of becoming ‘client-centric’ by:
- Viewing your client as a ‘client’, not as a ‘matter’ or ‘transaction’. This includes understanding that your client does not have ‘legal issues’, they have ‘commercial issues’.
- Getting ‘continuous’ feedback from your client – not just once a quarter, twice a year or the never-ever but always promised client feedback sessions.
- Promote the brand of your client internally – for example, maybe include details of the client in your staff break room(s), internal bulletin boards (including things your client is currently doing that’s important to them), or need the photocopier(s).
- Always looking to the future. Don’t get hung up on the last thing you did with your client, look to the next thing you will do with them!