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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wicker Park Group: Measuring Referability | Wicker Park Group - Client Feedback for Law Firms and other Professional Service Firms

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Measuring Referability

Knowing that word of mouth referrals dominate attorney and law firm hiring decisions, Stinson Leonard Street decided to accelerate its understanding of the firm’s referability. Adding to their already robust client feedback efforts which include regular leadership visits, internal and third party conducted in-person and telephone client interviews, and a client advisory panel; the firm incorporated an electronic tool to establish benchmarks for referability using the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Stinson Leonard Street’s CBDO, Jill Weber shares some best practices, benefits and lessons learned in an interview following her recent presentation on the topic at the LMA Bay Area Chapter CME program.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

GC Focus - How GlaxoSmithKline uses AFA's and Project Management

Lindsay Griffiths, the Director of Global Relationship Management, of the International Lawyers Network, has a great write-up of a panel discussion on project management, fee arrangements and what law firm's need to do serve their clients' needs in a relatively fast moving landscape.

The panel was held in April at the Legal Marketing Association annual conference:

"GC Focus: Project Management. Position Your Firm in Alignment With the Unique Challenges Faced by In-house Counsel." 

Panelists included: 

Keith Isgett, the Managing Attorney-General - Global External Legal Relations, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
Justin Ergler, Sourcing Group Manager, Legal Services Procurement, GlaxoSmithKline
Nat Slavin, Founder and Partner of Wicker Park Group
With Moderator Alicia Brown, Director of Strategic Relationships for Bloomberg Law. 

Closing comments are words to live by:

Nat Slavin: Relentlessly ask your partners what matters to their clients and share that at your firm, one size fits one. 

Keith Isgett: Train your folks on alternative fees speak, so that they understand what's being said. 

Justin Ergler : Change with your clients - don't react. Understand where they're going, and be there with them. 

Read the entire article here at Lindsay's great Zen & The Art of Legal Networking site.

Friday, April 19, 2013

More on The Legal Industry Value Challenge and What it Means

While there continues to be much debate about the impact of the ACC's Value Challenge in the U.S. market, there is no doubt that demonstrating value in key client relationships with law firms (and all clients for that matter) is critical.

The Association of Corporate Counsel has announced that they are expanding the Value Challenge to Europe and created a digital guide as a resource.

Discussions about value, billing, efficiency and continuing law firm efforts to meet the business needs of the client remain hot topics at industry events. But when interviewing in-house counsel about the impact of the value challenge, most simply don't understand, or know, what the value challenge actually means.

In those same interviews, the key themes are repeated by the vast majority of law firm clients we interview as critical to the modern client/lawyer relationship (this list is from the ACC Value Challenge website):

  • Aligning Relationships
  • Value-based Fee Structures
  • Staffing and Training Practices
  • Budgeting
  • Project Management
  • Process Improvement
  • Use of Technology
  • Data Management
  • Knowledge Management
  • Change Management

If you don't know about the value challenge read the guide. Also read our earlier post about how Leonard, Street and Deinard took the value challenge to heart and focused on the core mission: Meet-Talk-Act.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Paradigm Shift in the Business of Law

This new video from RethinkLaw perfectly captures the state of the Legal industry and the ongoing and evolving shift in the client/law firm relationship.

The most important part of client feedback

The most important part of the client feedback process is being prepared to act on the feedback you receive.

When we advise our law firm and professional service firms on best practices in client feedback there are several "rules" to follow, but the number one rule is: You are making a promise. You are making a promise that if you are going to take your client's time and ask for feedback you are going to follow up on that feedback.

It is worse to ask for feedback and not follow up then to not ask at all.

In a recent post on the Fast Company web site, they offer three tips that are a critical part of the follow up.

Their advise is important piece of the feedback follow up process.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Client Conversations Strengthen Relationships, Lead to New Business

Lawyers are always interested in getting more work and better work from their existing clients. If you ask a lawyer what his or her client really wants, the lawyer is likely to say “good legal work.” If you ask the client, you’ll get a far different answer. The client’s answer is what counts.
“To get more and better business from their clients, lawyers and law firms need to have ‘the conversation’ to find out what clients really expect from the relationship,” said Nat Slavin. “Only about 10 to 15 percent of law firms are actually having these essential conversations with their clients.
“It is important to understand that these are not traditional ‘sales calls’ in which a lawyer’s primary concern is asking for new business,” said Slavin. “Nor are they point-by-point surveys.
“They are structured, customized conversations in which a representative of the law firm skillfully probes to discover client needs, preferences and opinions,” said Slavin. “Without directly asking for it, these conversations almost always generate new business.”
The Association of Corporate Counsel’s Value Challenge developed a “meet, talk, act” approach to effective client conversations: meet with a client face-to-face, talk to the client about problems and needs, and act by coming up with and implementing concrete ways to solve problems and meet needs.
Slavin discussed the use of strategic client conversations as a business-development tool at the March educational meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. The event took place March 12 at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in LoDo, Denver.
Slavin is a founder and partner in the Wicker Park Group, which focuses on law firm client feedback interviews, client growth programs, and training and development. Slavin is the former publisher of Inside Counsel and former president of the Legal Marketing Association.

What Clients Really Want

A client who has hired a lawyer as outside counsel assumes that the lawyer is qualified to do good legal work. Otherwise, the lawyer would not have made the cut in the first place. Quoting a client, Slavin said: “Smart is what gets you in the door. How you manage the relationship is what keeps you inside.”
The relationship is what builds loyalty.
“We have conducted more than 1,000 client interviews,” said Slavin. “As a result, I have a pretty good sense of ‘what clients want.’ They want lawyers who can fix their problems. They want lawyers who can make their lives easier. They want lawyers with whom they can have a close and enjoyable personal relationship.”
In 2011, the ACC conducted a survey of chief legal officers and general counsel. Forty-two percent came from private companies, 34 percent from public companies, and the rest from non-profits, subsidiaries of foreign companies, LLCs and other organizations.
Survey respondents look for good value for the money they spend, reasonable cost, transparency between the lawyer and the client, and understanding of issues facing the client and its industry.
The most pressing issues expressed by these CLOs are:
Keeping apprised of company issues with potential legal implications,
Reducing outside legal costs,
Dealing with too much work and too few resources,
Staying on top of developments in the law,
Communicating changes in the law to management, and
Demonstrating the value of the legal department to management.
The biggest challenges faced by CLOs include regulation/legislation, general economic outlook, growth, globalization, competition/maintaining market share, controlling risk, being sole risk manager, increasing litigation, lack of funding, healthcare reform, compliance, internal actions with legal implications, quality of law firms, being spread too thin, need for a strategic business partner, and training and motivating a law department as well as the company’s executives.

Meeting Client Needs

Obviously, there are many ways in which a lawyer and law firm can address these concerns and make life easier for the CLOs with whom they work. The purpose of a client conversation is to uncover these concerns and come up with practical solutions that address them.
Communication between inside and outside counsel is a hot button for many CLOs. “One of the most common complaints we hear from clients is about unclear emails,” said Slavin. “Be specific in the message line. Keep the message succinct, with the main point up front. After a chain of three emails, pick up the phone and speak with the client. Do not send an email at 2 a.m. It just makes the client nervous. Write it at 2 a.m., if you must, but send it in the morning.”
If your client prefers to communicate in person or by phone instead of email, respect those preferences. Make sure that a real, informed person answers your phone and that messages do not go to voicemail or to an uninformed switchboard.
“Cost of legal services is also obviously a big problem for CLOs,” said Slavin. “Prior to the recession and current economic pressures, in-house counsel were comfortable sending work to outside counsel. With current cost pressures, legal departments are forced to handle more of this work in-house. Competition for ‘outside’ work and pressure to control cost is extreme.
“When a client gets a series of monthly bills for $20,000, and the outside lawyer says that the next month will be more, and the bill shows up at $65,000,” said Slavin, “that is a massive failure to manage the client’s expectations and an equally massive disconnect in understanding the client’s budget. Without exception, CLOs hate surprises.”
Another common complaint is bills with small increments, like 30 or 40 minutes a day listed over several days for the same project. Clients want lawyers to be focused in their use of time.
Understanding the preferences of individual clients is also essential. “I spoke with one new corporate counsel who had been invited out by a client for an evening of steak, scotch and cigars,” said Slavin. “This approach had apparently worked well with her predecessor. However, she was a vegetarian with a husband and a three-year-old waiting at home. She just wanted to be able to spend more time with her family! This was not the best way to build a relationship with her.”

Case Study: Leonard, Street and Deinard

Leonard, Street and Deinard is among Minnesota’s largest law firms, with 200 attorneys. Wicker Park Group worked with them on a highly successful “client conversation” program to retain and expand quality business. They developed tools and trained the firm’s trainers.
Forty-seven of the firm’s attorneys accepted an invitation to participate in the program. “A firm should start the program using the attorneys who are the most interested,” said Slavin. “In any group, there are 10 percent early adapters, 10 percent absolute naysayers, and 80 percent who will wait and see. Positive results from a pilot project can be used to persuade the reluctant.”
Each attorney was asked to identify three, four or five high-value clients to visit face-to-face within a 60-day time frame, schedule the visit, prepare for the meeting, rehearse for the meeting, meet with the client, report on the outcome of the meeting and follow up with the client. The lawyer making the appointment should be someone neutral, not be the relationship lead.
The firm’s marketing department supported the volunteer attorneys with each step of the process.
“Support included creation of talking points to use in scheduling a conversation; development of best practices for conducting the conversation (including role play, practice dialogue and listening skills); and collection of primary (existing), secondary (competitive intelligence) and relationship (who knows whom) research to thoroughly educate the lawyer prior to the conversation,” said Slavin.
Support also included development of a tool for recording and reporting results of the conversations as well as a method of rewarding and recognizing successful efforts.

Conversations Lead to New Business

Each of the 47 lawyers was given a list of five customized questions around which to structure the conversation. The conversation should be all about the client, and not all about the law firm.
After 60 days, more than 100 client conversations had been completed, generating useful qualitative and quantitative data. The results were shared with 17 client teams. The firm achieved 13 additional matters in the same practice area, 15 cross-selling opportunities, and one significant new business opportunity.
Based on feedback from clients, the law firm was able to:
1. Engage in a training program with the client that enhanced visibility.
2. Encourage the client to use the firm’s litigation management extranet, in order to manage legal
    costs from multiple law firms.
3. Help the client re-scope a fixed-fee arrangement in order to improve realization.
4. Help the client draft an article for the ACC on partnering on pro bono opportunities.
5. Leverage client conversation into a plant tour, a meeting with the founders and a request for
    proposal for a broad range of legal services.
By developing a packaged training program and toolkit to prepare each attorney for the challenge, encouraging participation, and tracking feedback and results, attorneys at this firm gained great insights into their clients’ businesses, expanded contracts within the clients’ organizations, built goodwill and better relationships, and improved internal communication among lawyers and practice groups.
Copyright © 2012, Janet Ellen Raasch
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