Improving Client Relationships

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By David Cruickshank | Apr 5, 2015

memo

TO: Relationship Partners

FROM: Managing Partner

I am concerned that we are not doing enough to meet one of our recent strategic objectives – deepening relationships with our clients. I recently interviewed some of our senior associates and some key clients and learned that not much has changed. The clients don’t know our senior associates (and future partners) and they regard our teams as ever-changing. Our associates still don’t know the details of the clients’ industry or business. Perhaps it is our origination rules or the economics pressed on us by clients. The reasons don’t matter, because our relationships with clients have to be a team sport. If you have four or more attorneys staffed on a client matter, here are some things I want to see happen in the next 60 days.

  • At the beginning of a new matter, send a “team introduction” page and a contacts list to the client. Ask them to complete their side of the contacts list, including related parties. The team introduction sheet should have photo head shots and short bio notes. These ought to look great on a smartphone too.
  • Take our IT Director to meet with the client’s counterpart. Review any concerns they have about secure communications. If possible, set up an intranet with the client to share calendars, project charts and documents. We don’t charge for any of this.
  • Invite a senior person (preferably a VP) from the client’s business operations to present to our firm on new developments in their industry and their key business objectives. Everyone on the client team is to attend, especially partners.
  • Place a mid-level or senior associate at the client’s office one-half day per week for two to three months. They are there to learn the client’s business and develop relationships with assistant general counsel. This is not billed time unless the client requests specific tasks in that time frame.
  • Re-institute the “celebratory deal dinner” or “settlement celebration.” Those of you over 50 remember that we held these events to celebrate hard work and success. For some, we had lawyers on the other side attending. Now and then, we should have these face-to-face events. We will build up personal capital for the times when relationships might get stressed. We will pick up the tab.

One last thought, because adding value for clients is also on my mind. Ask every member of your team to send you their best idea for adding value for a key client. Have the team choose the top two. I will review those with you in 60 days when I come to see you about your performance on the list in this memo.