Law firm clients often complain that their lawyers do not understand their business. It frustrates them to have to educate their outside lawyers about the issues they deal with, and which their attorneys need to understand, to represent them properly.

And that is only part of the relationship a law firm should seek with their clients. At a client meeting last week, I emphasized to a group of lawyers the importance of making friends with their clients. My point was that if the lawyer and client have a true friendship, there is no reason to worry about another law firm taking the client away.

In addition to knowing a client’s business, lawyers can build on a friendship by helping their clients prosper in their business. Ed Roach over at Small Business Branding discusses a number of ways to do that in his article “Feel the Love”, or what I might suggest shows that you’re a real friend by:

  • Talking them up to others, when the opportunity presents itself,
  • Referring potential customers to them and let them know about it,
  • “Be(ing) honest” and admit when you make a mistake (helps avoid malpractice suits),
  • Buying their products, if at all possible,
  • Supporting their favorite charities, and interests,
  • Treating everyone in their organization with respect,
  • Increasing your face time with the client (see my No. 1 Marketing Tip), and
  • Of course, delivering your best effort every time.
  • Referring one client to another can be beneficial, but it be destructive to a lawyer’s credibility and practice. During the real estate development frenzy of a few years ago, several of my clients–sometimes with my help and sometimes not–had transactions and joint ventures with one another. Things haven’t turned out well, and ethical rules restrict my involvement. From some angles, my hat doesn’t look white.