I have advocated for years the need for client satisfaction interviews as a means of keeping competitors from pirating your clients. Not only do these surveys, especially in-person ones, help to solidify the client relationship, but they let a firm know about any client dissatisfaction before the client departs for another firm.

But, there is another angle that firms should consider. It has to do with determining the value of the relationship the firm has with the client vs. the main contact lawyer. In other words, if the responsible attorney would leave the firm for another, would the client stay or go. If the client is an “important” client (and which one isn’t these days), the firm might just want to try to solidify the loyalty to the firm itself.

Joyce Smiley in her September newsletter has a piece about lateral hires retaining clients from their old firm. Her article tells the story about a partner that left and then was concerned the client might not stay at his new firm. She tells the story to emphasize the importance of strategic client interviews. The interviews can work the other way as well.

That is, by solidifying existing relationships, a firm can defend against losing clients (especially those it considers key), even if the main contact lawyer does. How? By conducting client interviews. If a law firm doesn’t ask its clients how they are doing, whether there are concerns about the relationship, and how they can add value, it may be too late after a partner departs. It’s important for clients to see the value of a law firm beyond the value of any individual lawyer.

Defensive marketing. Now, there’s another reason for undertaking a client satisfaction survey program.