As another year comes to a close, it’s time to check in with clients to see how things are going, and more importantly, how the firm is doing. I don’t mean necessarily during the month of December for several reasons, such as year-end pressures on closing deals or settling cases, as well as family demands relating to the holidays.

However, it is a very good idea to plan on obtaining client feedback right after the first of the year. Having mentioned client surveys as an incredibly effective legal marketing tool several times in the past, it is even more important to be thinking about client retention after seeing the results of the March 2006 survey by the BTI Consulting Group. The results of that survey, which I have also mentioned before, show just how unhappy many clients are with their outside law firms. For ease of reference, here are the key findings again:

  • Only 30.7% of the Fortune 1000 companies recommend their primary law firms,
  • 53.7% of respondents in the previous 18 months showed their primary firm the door, and
  • Over 50% of the companies say they would try a new firm for “substantive matters.”

That ought to be proof enough that, as stated in a recent article in The Connecticut Law Tribune and Small Firm Business, “client surveys (are) worth the bother.” Several firms, particularly some smaller firms in that state, have recognized the importance of getting client feedback. It was a little disconcerting that one larger firm admitted it “hasn’t conducted a client survey in about 10 years.” According to the article, the managing partner said that “there’s a lot of time and effort involved,” and it is an “imposition (on the clients) to send out a 20-page survey.” They apparently leave it up to their partners to meet with the biggest clients and solicit feedback. A little loosey goosey there, I’d say, and in my experience, most law firm partners ain’t doing it.

Actually, I would concur that a 20-page survey is an imposition, and I would not recommend sending one of that length. Rather, important feedback can be obtained in less burdensome ways, such as a one- or two-page questionnaire, 15-20 minute telephone survey, or a 30-45 minute in-person interview. As the article points how, most clients welcome the opportunity to provide feedback. Further, clients would prefer to be asked, rather than have to initiate a discussion involving any dissatisfaction. They would more likely just walk away.

For the typical questions that I ask on behalf of clients, download this file.

  • Great post Tom. The reality is that since the client/atty relationships are often transactional driven, communication often dissipates after formal closure of the transaction. Shame that professionals need to use seasonality such as “year-end” to remind themselves of what they should be doing all along: (1) communicating; (2) seeking value-reinforcement.