Protecting Your Crown Jewels

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By Gerry Riskin | Jun 20, 2006

by Patrick J. McKenna and Michael Anderson

The Strength of Your Corporate Client Base Will Ultimately Determine How Well You Retain Your Strongest Players

Reading about the carnage that occurred earlier this year (see: This Might Hurt a Bit, Corporate Counsel, December 2005) as Pfizer Inc. reduced its list of 103 outside product liability counsel to about 20 firms reminded us of an incident that occurred some months back. In the process of providing strategic counsel to the Planning Committee of a national firm with over a dozen offices, we found ourselves in a discussion on how providing exceptional client service was a meaningful way of differentiating any law firm. Curiously, it was not too difficult to observe more than a few eyes roll.

Imagine this scenario. You are in a room with twelve of what one might label power partners, as each of these individuals controls a book of business that is easily in excess of $6 million. The body language is screaming out to please not engage us all in one more protracted discussion on the merits of providing good client service, as we’ve heard it all, too many times already. Meanwhile, the actual discussion is quietly attempting to console all involved that the firm is already doing everything possible to ensure that clients get the best service of any law firm, anywhere.

Now, I don’t know where the motivation came from, but as we were listening to this unfold, we were quickly scrambling to construct a number of quick questions to test a hypothesis.

We said to the group (and dare you to try this at home, with your own partners, at your very next meeting), “Humor us for a moment please. Think about a client that you serve that is among your most prestigious; the client that gives you a degree of notoriety within the firm and then, obviously because of their importance to you and to the firm, a client who you likely have the very best relationship with. We’re going to pose a series of questions, and on a piece of paper which you may keep secret, please give yourself one point for each of the questions that you can answer in the affirmative. Here are your questions:”

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