Not only is client feedback important, but in past posts I have sung the praises for in-house client feedback programs that demonstrate to clients the firm’s management is sincere in determining whether the client is satisfied with the law firm’s services.

An article in last month’s Strategies, the journal of the Legal Marketing Association by Joyce Smiley wrote about providing real value to clients with satisfaction surveys. Her article covered two points that I agree with. First, the firm should conduct client feedback surveys, and secondly, that law firms need to develop a “complete program” after a few initial successes.

Smiley mentions three surveys, two by The American Lawyer. One late last year where only "2% of the responding firms made the effort in 2008 to meet with their top 20 billing clients. The other survey was of in-house counsel members of the networking site Legal OnRamp who "reported that their outside firms don’t even bother with client satisfaction surveys." The third survey was of LMA’s members that showed that in 2008 client feedback was “respondents’ lowest (budget) priority.”

Okay, so the message is clear. Client satisfaction checking wasn’t a big deal in 2008. And based on this year’s marketing budgets, you can be certain that they ain’t lookin a whole lot better for 2009.

The bright side is that a few firms are taking a longer term view by actually establishing in-house feedback programs, as I reported in an Of Counsel article last October. One firm I mentioned, Duane Morris (who unfortunately let their “client interviewer” go with a round of staff layoffs just before the article went to press), was also highlighted by Smiley. It’s good to hear that DM’s program is still ongoing.

Whether the firm has an in-house program or uses outside consultants for their client satisfaction surveys, they need to be careful that the feedback programs are not perceived by clients as just another marketing fad. Smiley reports in her article on how one in-house counsel, who was asked to be part of a client panel at a law firm, felt that the discussion was really about marketing, rather than client satisfaction. Moreover, this in-house counsel stated “we’re going to do (performance reviews) internally,” since the law firms weren’t serious about doing them themselves.

  • Lesson One: Conduct client satisfaction surveys (whether using an in-house program or an outside 3rd party) or you can be certain that the client will be riding that horse; and
  • Lesson Two: Be sincere (make sure your efforts come across as truly seeking feedback and relationship building), and the marketing will take care of itself.