After seeing a couple of post in the last few days about client satisfaction, I got to wondering how many posts I have made on this blog over the past 10 years that touched on the subject. So I went to my trusty search box above and entered “client feedback.” Having preached over and over on the topic, I can’t really say whether I was surprised there were over 90 posts that referred to it.

Many of my readers may not have seen or been following my blog in those days, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of them. Seeking feedback has always been number three on my list of Top 10 Marketing Tips from the beginning. Here are a few:

Seeking Client Feedback: More Critical Than Ever

It’s been awhile since I harped on how important client satisfaction with their legal service provider is. Since starting this blog in January 2005, I have preached many, many times on how important feedback is for firms to retain existing clients or obtain referrals from them (See a few posts below on the subject).  It…Continue Reading

How to Seek Client Feedback

Well, 2015 is almost here. Time to plan your business development strategies for the coming year. One simple one (albeit a feared one by some lawyers), involves seeking feedback from clients to ensure (or improve) the quality of legal services provided. No one needs to be reminded of how tough and competitive the legal marketplace…Continue Reading

Client Feedback Pointer

Seeking client feedback is not only important for every law firm, but it needs to be done right. Following a recent post of mine on the topic, my friend Stacy West Clark raised some issues that got me to thinking about the Who, What, When, Why’s and How’s of getting client feedback: Who should conduct…Continue Reading

Seek Client Feedback For The Right Reasons

Although I believe that law firms will gain more work from clients because they seek feedback on how they are doing, that cannot be the reason for undertaking such a program. The honest reason for seeking client feedback must be based on caring for the client and the relationship. All else will take care of itself….Continue Reading

Apparently not too many firms according to an online “Leadership Matters” survey (a collaboration of TheRemsenGroup and Sterling Strategies) reported on the Managing Partner Forum this week. The survey sought data on individual lawyer contributions to their firms in the areas of financials, client satisfaction, people development, and firm processes/procedures.

What particularly caught my attention was what 56 law firm leaders reported regarding client satisfaction; to wit:

91% have ‘limited’ or ‘no’ measurements of client satisfaction.”

 Ouch! The danger relating to that statistic should be self-evident.

Further, as it so happens, a post this week on Law Practice Matters blog by Erik Mazzone talked about why law firms should track client satisfaction.  It cited an article by the Australian Beaton Research + Consulting firm, which reports (based on 10 years of data, according to Mazzone) that like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, client satisfaction is “a leading indicator for the rising or declining fortunes of the law firm.”

It really doesn’t take a flash of brilliance to figure out that dissatisfied clients are the death knell for any law firm.  Clients may not even complain, they’ll just take a hike. Is there really any need for a firm to be convinced that it should undertake immediately an effort to determine if there key clients (especially) are satisfied?

Mazzone suggests two survey tools (Net Promoter Score and SurveyMonkey) that can help obtain client feedback. Personally, I prefer in-person or telephone satisfaction surveys over written or online ones. The feedback is better, more detailed and more reliable. (See an earlier post of mine on suggestions on how to do that.)

Every law firm better give a darn whether their clients are satisfied – by asking them and not relying on the billing partner’s say so – or they might just regret it.

According to the “Firms in Transition Survey 2011” reported on Law360 on Tuesday “unproductive and underproductive partners” (read non-rainmakers) will be cut by 20% of the law firm responding to the Altman Weil (no follow) survey this year. The good news is that the percentage is less than the 33% of firms that cut partners last year.

On a separate note, it is also surprising how many law firm respondents don’t seem to get it. By that I mean:

  • 95% said they plan to raise hourly rates in the coming year (this is after 66% reported they “increased gross revenue in 2010). What are they thinking? Do they really believe that clients aren’t paying attention to these surveys? It’s beyond me; and
  • 75% of respondents “think that alternative fee arrangements will continue to increase,” and they “increasingly find themselves being forced (emphasize mine) to consider alternative fee arrangements to remain competitive.” Rather than being proactive (since clients are obviously more interested in AFAs), they are being “forced” to offer clients what the majority of firms recognize as inevitable. Baffling!

Interesting survey results to say the least.  But, most importantly, partners (especially those not doing much currently) need to be doing more business development for their own survival; and offering services and fee arrangements on terms clients want in order to become more productive in the marketing area. Otherwise, not only may they be “cut” off, they may crash and find themselves out of the race.

It continues to amaze many clients that more law firms do not seek their feedback on the legal services provided. Over the years I have met with dozens of law firm clients, and heard often that they welcome opportunities to provide feedback.

In this economy, client satisfaction surveys are more important than ever. The value of satisfied clients should be obvious. They will continue to send and refer work to the firm. The best way to ensure they are satisfied is to ask them. The two main reasons  you should be asking:

  1. Your competitors are asking them, and
  2. Your clients may be wondering why you aren’t.

A good time to ask clients for feedback on how the firm is doing , or did, includes during a matter and at its conclusion, and on an annual or biannual basis. Written or telephone surveys are okay, and better than doing nothing; but, the most effective surveys are in-person interviews of at least your top clients. The latter two should be carried out by the managing partner, other senior lawyer, or an outside third party; not by the attorney who directly works with the client. Some questions that might be asked include:

  • What is the firm doing well?
  • If there is one thing the firm could do better or differently to improve our services, what would that be?
  • Would you recommend the firm to others? Why (yes or no)?
  • Anything I haven’t asked that I should have?

Of course, you should ask specific questions about the firm’s responsiveness, quality of legal product, knowledge of industry, reasonableness of fees, and overall benefit to their business, as well. It is much better to ask before the client leaves for another firm, particularly if there is a problem that could be easily rectified. Remember, satisfied clients send more work and referrals.

So, how satisfied are your key clients? Are you sure?

The budget process for 2011 marketing efforts should be well underway in your firm; and clearly finding out how loyal your clients are is vital to your firm’s economic future, not only for the coming year but beyond.

Joyce Smiley in a recent item on her web site refers to a classic Harvard Business Review article “Why Satisfied Customers Defect” by Thomas O. Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr., that stresses that loyal clients must be more than just satisfied. Additionally, she quotes what several in-house lawyers had to say at the 17th Annual Marketing Partner Forum about tailoring services to each client.

To do that, quite frankly, you need to ask clients what they want, expect and think about the firm’s services. So, here’s five things law firms should seek from their clients and what can be revealed in the process, according to Smiley:

  • what clients want from your firm
  • “what problems you must address to strengthen and expand your client relationships
  • how to enhance your relationships to keep clients loyal to your firm
  • “the opportunities that could increase your firm’s business with its clients
  • “clients’ perceptions of your firm in the legal marketplace” (emphasis mine)

If learning what your clients’ satisfaction is with the services your firm provides is not part of your 2011 budget, it’s not too late to revise it.

Due to my office and family moving back to my beloved North Carolina, my posts over the next couple of weeks will feature five of my Top Ten Marketing Tips, especially for those who may not have been reading this blog back in 2005:


Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 3 – Seek Client Feedback Often

It continues to amaze many clients that more lawyers do not seek their feedback on the legal services provided. Over the years I have met with dozens of law firm clients, and heard often that they (1) welcome opportunities to provide feedback, (2) ask why the firm hadn’t asked sooner, and (3) are surprised that more of the law firms they use have never asked.

A good time to ask clients for feedback on how your firm did, or is doing, includes at the conclusion of a matter, and on an annual or biannual basis. Clients are flattered to be asked, and most of the comments are very favorable (or they would be using another firm). Further, it is much better to ask before the client leaves for another firm, particularly if there is a problem that could be easily rectified.


In this economy, client satisfaction surveys are more important than ever. In covering this topic many times, I have emphasized the value of improving relationships with current clients and referrals sources. The value is obvious, more business in the form of new matters and additional referrals.

There are two main reasons why you should currently be asking your clients for feedback:

  • Your competitors are asking your clients, and
  • Your clients may be wondering why you aren’t.

An article by Martha Candiello in the March issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine tells us that those reasons are why client feedback interviews are so necessary. Not just for the reasons mentioned above, but also because it can lead to more work as a result.

Candiello also shares her insight on how to make a client interview program successful. Previously, she was both an in-house corporate counsel, and later director of general counsel relations at Reed Smith.

Her keys to effective client interviews include:

  1. Develop internal support for the program by starting with a pilot program involving some willing partners;
  2. Publicize successes and favorable comments by clients;
  3. Overcome false perceptions by partners that they already “know what clients think about firm,” or clients “are too busy” to participate, etc.;
  4. Ask in-depth questions about clients’ experience beyond “how are we doing?”;
  5. Send someone other than the responsible partner to do the interviewing (e.g., managing partner, senior marketing staff person or outside consultant) to ensure candid and accurate information; and
  6. Prompting respond to any client concerns expressed, even if solutions are not exactly what the client is looking for.

Your firm really needs to do this. As Candiello points out:

“As more firms institute such programs and evolve existing programs to capture even more of their clients’ attention, a firm without a first-rate program is disadvantaged because it is not effectively capitalizing on its client relationships and investment. Once you’ve seen the results of a client interview program, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start one sooner.”

The good news is that some firms are doing client feedback programs; the bad news is that they aren’t really getting the feedback they need. That is, the feedback questions are superficial, and don’t really offer the kinds of return that will actually benefit the firm in retaining the client over the long haul.

An article posted on the BrandThinking blog by Sue Allison contends that a firm’s feedback program may not actually “lead to satisfied clients.”

The Problem. Although 64% of the marketers in AmLaw 200 firms would like to conduct meaningful feedback programs in 2010, according to Allison “they’re having trouble selling the concept to attorneys and firm leaders who already believe they are doing client feedback.” (emphasis mine) But are they?

What a Feedback Program Is Not:

  • Conducting just 12 client interviews (one per month) over a year;
  • Fluid in terms of what questions are asked vs. structured questions to get at any in-depth problems with the relationship; and
  • Thinking that by merely keeping in touch with a client, that will assure that the lawyer will “know if there were a problem.”

What is Needed:

  • A “Continuous Client Value Program” that assures that “your clients feel your firm is really listening and acting to solidify the relationship,” and
  • Conducted by an in-house staff person or lawyer not involved with a client’s matters, or an outside third party in order to increase the likelihood of getting candid feedback.

Law firm’s need to ensure that their client feedback program is one that really works, and not come across to clients as lame or insincere.

Paul Lippe of Legal OnRamp has an excellent piece in yesterday’s The AmLaw Daily which supports what I wrote about last week on the subject (I love it when really smart people confirm one of my viewpoints – notice I only said “one”).

Paul points out that ratings will happen whether law firms like it or not, and, in fact, always have (albeit less formalized) in the form of word-of-mouth ratings. And, just because the ACC Value Index evaluations can be negative, and not just positive (like Martindale-Hubbell, Super Lawyers, Chambers, Best Lawyers in America, et al.) doesn’t change a thing. If a rating system is an “effective” rating system, such will “provide clients and firms with information that helps them (both) do their job better,” according to Paul.

As I mentioned in my earlier post:

”The solution to all of this is quite simple. Talk to your clients. Ask them how you’re doing. Correct any problems. Then the evaluations will take care of themselves."

Or as Paul puts it:

“If firms are worried about negative, but anonymous, assessments, they should be getting the feedback directly from clients before the ACC does.”

Take a look at his article where he lays out nine suggestions on what a “trusted rating system” might look like. If ratings are based on many of those, maybe the “fussing” will go away – certainly that would be the case for those law firms that get it and are talking with their clients now. 

A survey by The BTI Consulting Group for Hellerman Baretz Communications LLC released today provides insight into how to distinguish yourself from other firms in landing new clients. According to the survey, which involved interviews with the “top legal executives” at 28% of Fortune 1000 and 15% of Global 500 companies, the best activities fall into 3 main categories: Personal Knowledge, Credentialing, and Awareness type of activities.

The top two activities are in the area of personal knowledge:

  1. Peer referrals are the most effective way to get hired (57% of respondents would consider hiring a lawyer after just one peer referral) , and
  2. Introduction via in-person scheduled meetings (it normally takes 8 telephone calls to get such a meeting, and 90% of attorneys give up after the first call ends in rejection, according to the survey).

The next most effective set of activities involves “credentialing” and include:

  • Being quoted as an expert in the media (interestingly, 3 such quotes equates to the single peer referral in terms of getting hired),
  • Educating in small seminar settings,
  • Practicing at a “well-regarded” firm, and
  • Publishing an article in a trade journal.

Rounding out the top 10 mentioned activities (and scoring less than 5 out of 10 in effectiveness) include: speaking at a prominent event, being featured in a media article, advertising, and a casual in-person meeting.

In planning your 2010 business development activities, this survey of the top ways to land new clients is at least worth a look.