“Our clients don’t expect us to provide excellent service,” said no one, ever.
Law firms know the importance of providing great service; in fact, it’s hard to find a law firm website that doesn’t focus on client service as a differentiator. Here are just a few excerpts pulled from law firm websites: “committed to a deep understanding of a client’s business,” “provides superior client service,” “gives clients the focus and service of a boutique,” “delivers consistent and uncompromising quality and value to our clients,” and “values long-term client relationships.”
Underlying great client service is a strong understanding of the client’s business and goals. Clients expect lawyers to know their business and industry; but, this is easier said than done. There are many barriers to success when it comes to helping lawyers develop a strategic client mindset: they don’t have time, they don’t see the benefit, or they simply don’t know how to use client intelligence.
So, how do you break down these barriers to create a Client Intelligent Law Firm? Here are three keys to success:
- Developing a client mindset is a behavior change, and it takes time.
- Align processes and resources.
- Hold lawyers accountable.
I have the unique opportunity to act as an outside partner to law firms as they build programs to support client growth. I typically come into the picture at the point when key leaders of the firm recognize the need to focus on developing client programs and are grappling with what this entails. Often, they’re looking for a magic bullet — something they can just implement and then move onto other things. Similar to other broad changes, shaping a firm’s client development mindset is a behavior change that cannot be consolidated into a single event. It takes planning, execution, and ongoing review and updates to be successful.
Compare this to any lifestyle change you’ve worked to achieve whether dieting, quitting smoking, or working out. Ten years ago (or possibly a bit longer ago!), I would joke that the only time you would find me running is if somebody was chasing me. Since then, I’ve realized the benefits of working out and have set and reset my goals. I’ve completed races starting with 5Ks, moving to Sprint and International distance triathlons and ultimately, a Half-Ironman Triathlon. None of this came easy, and I still need to work hard to structure my day and my mindset to prioritize gym time into my schedule.
Quick Tip: There’s no magic bullet. The firm needs a realistic plan to move towards a client mindset and recognition that it’s not one and done. It’s an ongoing program.
2. Align Processes and Resources
Successful client development programs are achieved through aligning processes and having designated resources, both human and technology, to support relevant initiatives.
More often than not, library and business development professionals want more time to help their firms to be more strategic when it comes to using client intelligence to grow clients and look for new opportunities. But, the reality is they don’t have the time. Much of their time is focused on reactive client development vs proactive client development. For instance, they spend a lot of time responding to one-off research requests that might not even connect to a strategy. What if they had time to create in-depth knowledge of key industries or clients in order to proactively help lawyers find new opportunities or coach lawyers on how to use the research they are requesting?
Technology to support client development helps the scalability of programs. For instance: Introhive helps automate relationship intelligence; Oneplace provides a platform to streamline all types of client data; Manzama Base and Insights help automate daily, personalized intelligence to lawyers and uncover new client and industry opportunities. Most of this can be done by humans, but client intelligent firms know that technology can take on some of the more tactical, mundane work in order to free-up their key human capital resources to focus on the more strategic work.
Quick Tip: Take inventory of your firm’s resources and processes. Figure out where there are gaps, and develop a plan to support a strong client intelligence program.
3. Lawyer Accountability
Finally, hold lawyers accountable to the firm’s Client Development Program priorities. This is not always easy, but it does become more realistic when the firm invests in creating a framework for a client development mind-set and investing in resources.
You will likely never have 100% adoption, but you can set an initial goal and increase participation goals as you continue to build the program and promote successes.
Quick Tip: You need to invest in and align resources to support a client development mindset, before either simply saying that “lawyers won’t do it” or expecting them to jump on-board.
Ready, Set, Benchmark
No two firms are alike when it comes to how they approach client intelligence and how far along in the continuum they are in building programs. But, every firm does have the ability to evaluate where they’re at and take steps to build their programs. The first step is evaluating your current client intelligence program. How well are your firm’s processes and resources aligned to support a Client Intelligent culture? Answer the following 10 questions to find out if your firm is an Up & Comer, Rising Star, or Trend-Setter.
Client Intelligence Quiz
- Does the firm support client intelligence with resources (technology, personnel, top-down-support, etc.)? Yes Somewhat No
- Does your firm have collaboration across Marketing and Library to support business development? Yes Somewhat No
- Do lawyers recognize the value of client intelligence? Yes Somewhat No
- Do business development professionals have direct contact with clients, whether via client interviews, pitch meetings, etc.? Yes Somewhat No
- Does the firm have professionals aligned with key industries and practices to proactively identify trends and new opportunities? Yes Somewhat No
- Do attorneys receive coaching or training on how to use intelligence to drive new business? Yes Somewhat No
- Do attorneys receive ongoing current awareness targeted to relevant industries, companies, competitors, and other hot topics? Yes Somewhat No
- Is current awareness and other market intelligence integrated across portals, such as CRM systems, lawyer dashboards, and/or other Intranet sites? Yes Somewhat No
- Are lawyer compensation systems aligned to support a client development mindset? Yes Somewhat No
- Are business development professionals a part of client team and client development strategies? Yes Somewhat No
Scoring and Results
Count up the number of “yes” and “somewhat” responses to questions 1-10, and use the below key to see where your score falls within the three Client Intelligence levels.
My Score: ______ ( Yes = 1, Somewhat = .5, No = 0)
1-3: CI Up and Comer
If you scored 0-3, your firm either doesn’t have top-down support for CI, or it doesn’t have an understanding of the importance of a CI Program. However, the fact that you’re taking this quiz likely means you want your firm to be doing more than it is in this area. So, what do you do? Look for small wins and share successes. For instance, meet with a couple of influential lawyers within the firm to learn more about their practices and find ways to support their initiatives with research. Learn more about one of the firm’s key industries and watch the industry for emerging trends and alert the group to potential opportunities. Work together across the marketing and library departments.
4-7: CI Rising Star
If you scored 4-7, you are on your way to great things! Your firm either has top-down support for client intelligence or there are innovators pushing the firm to build the program. You are likely staying current on industry trends and looking for opportunities to ride the wave with other firms. Your firm is likely not first to market, but you are connecting legal services to business needs of clients and prospects. Now what? Continue to build your client intelligence program, sharing successes across the firm to generate new interest in the program. Network with others in the industry to learn from their CI journey. Use the questions from the quiz as a framework for a CI Audit to determine where there are gaps in your CI Program, and work with key stakeholders to develop a plan for continued growth.
8-10: CI Trend-Setter
If you scored 8-10, wow! Clients know that you are watching out for them and proactively reaching out when potential risks or opportunities start to bubble up. The firm has identified specific industries to monitor on an ongoing basis to look for market changes and identify potential trends before they happen, developing niche practices to support new markets. Oftentimes, you aren’t having to compete in an RFP process, since you’re approaching prospects before they even realize the need for legal services. Your firm recognizes the value of a strong client intelligence program and supports it with resources. Now what? The legal industry is typically behind other industries, so even though you’re the trend-setter in legal, there’s more to be done! Continue to push for new tools and training to stay at the top!
Stacy Rowe is Director of Client Success at Manzama. She is a seasoned marketing and client development professional, with 20 years of experience working both within a law firm and across law firms to build client relationships with intelligence. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn @stacyarowe.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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