As 2011 winds down (this year seems to have particularly flown by), it is time to start setting goals for next year. Since approximately 80% of law firm work comes from existing clients (in the form of new work or referrals) or other referral sources, client satisfaction and retention (except for criminal defense, PI and certain other practice areas, of course) should be every firm’s No. 1 goal.

Allan Colman has an excellent article advising law firms on the kinds of things they should be looking at in getting ready for 2012. It apparently appeared on Law360 (subscription required), but you can read it on his web site here. It is definitely worth a read. I was particularly interested in his first area of focus – “increasing client retention.”

That does seem to be a no brainer in light of that 80% thing-gy I mentioned. Here are several pointers on how to go about doing that:

  • With the fast-paced nature of our world today and the ease of connecting with people remotely, it is important to “slow down and make real connections with people” (in my mind that means face-to-face contacts);
  • Expand client interaction to include asking how the firm “is doing and how (it) could improve.” And if you do, make sure you avoid the complaint of one Fortune 1000 in-house counsel; to wit: “I’ve rarely seen any follow-up from these interviews.” In which case it would be better to have not wasted the client’s time;
  • Focus “building a good rapport with current clients” (but you need to especially concentrate on your top clients that generate 75-80% of your revenue); and
  • Remember that long term clients still require relationship building, so that they don’t become dissatisfied and leave for another firm, especially to one that is being working like hell to build a relationship with them.

Simple reminders really. Never take clients you want to retain for granted. If they leave it takes a long time to get them back, and even longer to land prospects.