Law Firm Client Service

We’re at a unique point in our histories right now – everything seems to be in an upheaval, and our nerves are frayed. Many of us are finally getting to a place that feels like a new normal, but there are still some things that are a challenge. One of the things I’ve seen to be true over the past few weeks is that a lot of people seem to be in a mad rush to make things happen. In many cases, that’s necessary – as things close, we have to make quick choices about how to work from home, how to help clients move entire businesses to remote working, how to suddenly adapt to working next to children and spouses and partners, how to identify the tricky legal issues that come with challenging economic times.

Whenever there is a rush like that, the idea of “care” can often become secondary. We get more terse in our replies in an effort to be more efficient and we forget that there are real, scared and anxious people at the other end of the phone or digital line, who are trying to manage as many plates and emotions as we are.
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Our second quarter of the year begins tomorrow, and for many of us, we’re facing a new normal that didn’t seem possible three months ago. One of my lawyers emailed me last night and said “what a year this past week has been.” I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.

Lawyers are all in different places at the moment – some firms are exceptionally busy, but may have clients who aren’t able to pay them at the moment. Others are making the difficult decision to lay off staff or cut salaries. Some are shuffling resources to accommodate the influx of questions to practice areas like employment and insolvency and bankruptcy. Everyone is unsure what the future brings.
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For better or worse, we’re all uber-connected these days, between our desktops and our smart phones and our tablets. While many of us can and do (and probably should) take technological time outs for holidays and weekends and evenings, responsiveness is a key factor in keeping clients, potential clients, and yes, even referral sources happy when reaching out about business. And yet, it is STILL one of the most overlooked (and easiest to fix) complaints that I hear about relationship building.

It’s a rather HUGE pet peeve of mine when people don’t take the time to respond to emails, and I know I’m not alone. Let’s talk about the message that it sends, and why it’s an easy fix.

I know lawyers are busy. I know that their time, literally, is money. So I can be (somewhat) forgiving of the attorneys who may not read and answer all of the emails that I send them.

However. 
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A few years ago, I remember a woman I know posting on Twitter that her daughter had said “this is the best day of my life. We went to the park, we’re going to mcdonalds, I found a penny. The best day of my life.”

She was 5 at the time, but she had already been through a lot, dealing with a very scary brain tumor that year.  And that, plus a few big things going on in my own life and friends’ lives, have me thinking – the best days of my life really have been about the little things.

Sure, graduating from college was exciting, buying my first house was exciting (well, more nerve-wracking and expensive than exciting), but were they the “best” days of my life?

Nah.

Those have been about the little things – the first time each of my nieces said my name for the first time (or any time they say it, frankly).  Every time one of my dogs comes racing over to see me like I’m his favorite person in the world (I am). Slipping my hand into the hand of the person I love for the first time. Crossing the line of my first marathon (okay, that was kind of a big one). Really focusing to help a friend going through a tough time, and knowing that being there makes a difference. Laughing until I cry with women who really get me. Those are some of my best days.


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This fall, ILN members will have the good fortune to participate in a webinar with Pamela Cone, founder and CEO of Amity Advisory. Pam is speaking on the global movement behind corporate social responsibility and sustainability for law firms, and why firms should care, and in advance of that, I’ll be sharing some guest posts with you that may aid in your own efforts. Here is the third and final post in our series.

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How does your social impact program rate? Globally, firms are finding that prospects and clients, as well as employees and recruits expect them to take their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs to a new level. These stakeholders expect you to show that you have a holistic, strategic social impact plan with measurable results.
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This fall, ILN members will have the good fortune to participate in a webinar with Pamela Cone, founder and CEO of Amity Advisory. Pam is speaking on the global movement behind corporate social responsibility and sustainability for law firms, and why firms should care, and in advance of that, I’ll be sharing some guest posts with you that may aid in your own efforts. Here is the second in our series.

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You might be surprised to learn what your clients expect from you. A growing number of companies have signed on to the United Nations Global Compact—more than 12,000 in 165 countries. They’re committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and they expect vendors and suppliers to also commit toward a more just and sustainable world.  Yes, this includes law firms and other professional service providers.
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This fall, ILN members will have the good fortune to participate in a webinar with Pamela Cone, founder and CEO of Amity Advisory. Pam is speaking on the global movement behind corporate social responsibility and sustainability for law firms, and why firms should care, and in advance of that, I’ll be sharing some guest posts with you that may aid in your own efforts.

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The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.”  (www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/)

The world is changing and so is the way we must do business.
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While being interviewed for a podcast yesterday morning, the host asked me what I saw as the primary trend for the future of law firms. Although my answer is simple, the work behind it is not – collaboration.

We’ve talked about Heidi Gardner’s book, Smart Collaboration, before (and I again highly recommend reading it). One of the things Gardner addresses in the book is the barriers to collaboration. I’m sure many of these will be familiar to you, and that she’s so adept at identifying them should give you comfort that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to why collaboration is so essential and useful to law firms and lawyers. Let’s examine a few of these, and how you may overcome them within your own firms or law firm networks to achieve better collaborative results.
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These days, it seems that everyone is looking for a quick fix to everything. How do I get clients fast? How can I do business development without being directly involved myself? How can I skip ahead to the final steps?

Unfortunately, as with anything worthwhile, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

If you want to have successful client relationships, and professional relationships in general, it’s necessary to start with the basics. The good news is that there are two easy fixes you can implement today that will improve your image, raise the caliber of your relationships, and aid in your business development efforts. I know that sounds too good to be true, and as if I’m some sort of snake oil salesman, but I promise, it’s true. 
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In our discussions over the last few years about the future of the law firm, the one thing that has become abundantly clear is that for lawyers and firms to be successful, they will have to learn to collaborate effectively and efficiently. In her book, Heidi Gardner calls this “Smart Collaboration.” I had the chance to see Gardner present at the CLOC conference in February, and recently finished her book, and I can’t recommend it enough – for anyone in professional services looking to be successful over the next ten years, this is a must-read.

Gardner looks at collaboration from a few distinct viewpoints, and makes the case for it in a variety of ways. The one that strikes me initially is her final chapter, in which she discusses collaboration from the point of view of the client. Clients are deeply committed to the idea of collaboration, but obviously, they want to make sure that they’re paying for good value. Not surprisingly, collaboration is good for both the firm and the client. I’m not going to go into the reasons why your firm should be investing in the idea of smart collaboration (think better success in the war for talent/clients; doing higher value work more efficiently and effectively; being a differentiator, etc.) but instead, I want to look at the reasons why collaboration adds value for your clients, and specifically, how members of a law firm network can use their membership to effectively communicate this value and enhance their collaborative skills. 
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