Unfortunately, too many law firms do not provide quality client service. At least not the kind of service that clients want, if we can believe the results of surveys by the BTI Consulting Group and InsideCounsel magazine. I trust that many firms truly believe they are providing good client service. Regrettably, the surveys do not support that view.

An article “The Phenome of Client Service” by David Freeman on Law.com’s Small Firm Business should serve as a wakeup call for many law firms if they are serious about client service. David’s article is definitely worth a read.

First, David points out that the surveys tell us:

  • In 2006, clients only gave 21% of their firms an A grade on performance, while 52% of law firms gave themselves an A (there was an even worse disparity in 2007, with 19% of clients and 62% of firms rendering an A) [InsideCounsel];
  • Approximately 47% of corporate counsel “ousted their primary law firms in the prior 18 months;” and in 2006, 75%  of in-house counsel respondents were looking at “exceptional client focus” while only 12.5% were “swayed by legal skills” [BTI Consulting]; and
  • In 2008 “The Survey of Client Service Performance for Law Firms: The BTI Client Service A-Team” reports that only 34.6% of clients “recommended their primary law firm.” [BTI Consulting].

So, client service is the name of the game. Or it should be.  And I agree with David that the way to excel at it is to: know your client’s business, be highly responsive, proactive, add value, and manage the relationship. In conclusion, he sums it up this way: “It should be the goal of every firm to move from the platitudes of lip service to the realities of extraordinary service.”

If you would like to take a quick look at his six steps for a more “robust approach” to client service …

The following are David’s steps “to consider for building a more robust approach:

  1. Agree upon and commit to a defined set of client service standards.
  2. Turn fluffy, high-level strategic statements into real, definable, measurable action steps.
  3. Provide training and ongoing reminders focused on what it takes to meet and exceed a client’s expectations.
  4. Include client service as a significant factor in compensation.
  5. Give leaders the power to enforce standards (carrot and stick).
  6. Provide role models, teach the skills, give opportunities to practice and supply meaningful feedback. One great rehearsal hall is within your own firm, where lawyers can deliver exceptional service to each other."