More than two weeks into 2013, I’m pleased to report that I haven’t entirely abandoned my New Year’s Resolutions – fifteen days of being cheesecake-free! In addition to dessert-related goals, I’ve made some professional resolutions: I resolve to be more strategic in my thinking, to delegate responsibilities when appropriate, and to take a business writing course. So far, so good. The ABA Legal Rebels compiled a list of “13 Resolutions for Improving Client Service” – ideas that apply equally to how lawyers deal with their clients, how legal marketers work with the attorneys at the firm, and how legal marketers can help attorneys provide great service to their existing clients. Some of our favorites from the list (and thoughts on how they can be applied to the lawyer-client, lawyer-legal marketer and legal marketer – client relationships) are below.
Resolution: I will experiment with something new this year to see if the “buzz” is warranted instead of merely dismissing the idea because it’s not the way I do things.
Lawyer – Client: Have your clients asked for information on legal project managers or management software? Information on alternative fee arrangements? Spend a few minutes looking at what clients are talking about and work with your firm’s support staff to determine whether it’s the right fit for you.
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: Buzzwords and new products fly around constantly – content marketing! Twitter! LinkedIn! SEO! Maybe your lawyers have come to you and informed you that they want a blog (because everyone else seems to have one)…Take the time to think strategically about which hot new services or tools are actually appropriate for the commitment and capabilities of your attorneys, firm and market.
Legal Marketer – Client: What’s likely to happen when a client issues an RFP that focuses on alternative fee arrangements? You’re the one who will lead the charge on the response. Before diving into a project, driven by looming deadlines and exclamation point emails, do a little digging into the needs of the client. What sort of matters do they need help with? Has their General Counsel given any interviews or presentations on what the company looks for in an outside counsel partnership? An extra hour spent learning about what a client is actually asking – and sharing that information with your attorneys – can be worth its weight in hourly fees.
Resolution: I will ask my clients to define unacceptable, acceptable and outstanding outcomes before I bill for any work on a matter.
Legal Marketer – Client and Lawyer – Client: Pretty straightforward all around, right? Many clients have instructions on how they approach billing, budgets, fees and their relationships in their outside counsel guidelines, but have your attorneys established best practices for communication, reporting and results with their key clients? If not, it’s time. (Note: Knowing what not to do is just as important…)
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: Discussions of boundaries and expectations are tough, but well worth a little squirming. What do your attorneys view as a “final” product? How involved do they want you to be in terms of sharing information about clients, legal marketing trends, team news, etc.? Establishing the norms and best practices for how you provide services is a way to ensure that you’re anticipating needs and working strategically instead of reacting to each new email that pops up on your screen.
Resolution: I will read books that help me evaluate the way I practice. I will start with Michael Eisner’s Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed.
Legal Marketer: I will also look into books such as The Tipping Point and Look At More Stuff, and sign up for the Virginas Chapter Book Club.
Resolution: I will make less use of email in dealing with my clients and spend more time talking to them on the phone and visiting them personally.
Legal Marketer – Client and Lawyer – Client: We think client visits are important – and the ACC agrees. A small investment in time and travel costs allows for discussion, expression of appreciation and the opportunity to look a client in the face and ask how you’re doing. Some tips for client visits can be found here.
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: I know. Your desk chair is so comfortable, and you can keep track of your new emails and maybe check Facebook while you’re at your desk…I’m as much of a deskbody as anyone, but in the past year, I’ve realized the value of picking up the phone or going directly to a lawyer’s office to touch base. Not only do you get points for responsiveness, a personal call or visit gives you the opportunity to have a real discussion about a project or request, as opposed to a one-way conversation.
Now that they’re public, we’re stuck with our resolutions. What are your professional New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?