Building Enduring Client Loyalty: A Guide for Lawyers and Their Firms
Susan Saltonstall Duncan
£75, Globe Law and Business
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot afford to be complacent. One crisis, such as a global pandemic, can completely change the fundamentals of our lives.
Over the last decade or so, we have seen increasingly rapid transformations in automation, technology, AI, big data… the list goes on. In order to survive in this constantly changing environment, businesses must be strategic, agile and able to compete with disruptors in their market. As this book reminds us, legal services providers are no different.
So what can be done to ensure law firms remain relevant and keep up with the expectations of their clients? This book consolidates insights and advice from the author’s 35 years in industry, bolstered by interviews and practical examples from leading legal figures.
It is predominantly targeted at private practice practitioners or leaders of law firms rather than in-house counsel, but there are many principles and ideas that could just as easily apply to, and be implemented by, in-house teams. Senior partners of law firms, rising-star junior partners and legal operations professionals will almost certainly be able to take many useful lessons away.
There are some excellent suggestions on how law firms should: strategically assess their client base to ensure that they are building mutually beneficial relationships, including how they might develop ‘service plans’; implement governance structures for effective client committees; and manage succession planning. The references to further reading and resources provide support for anyone tasked with implementing the suggested strategies.
As an in-house lawyer with a focus on legal operations, I was pleased to see that there is a chapter dedicated to ‘earning loyalty through value, innovation and collaboration’, which provides a list of initiatives that law firms should consider implementing or creating (and sharing) with clients, such as knowledge management resources, audits, secondments and legal process mapping. Thankfully, the author emphasises the importance of a customer-centric approach and empathy for the rising pressures placed on in-house counsel, who are responsible for helping to manage legal risks, increase sales, and build sustainable, successful companies. In-house teams are a cost to their business and therefore scrutiny of costs and efficiency should be anticipated and actively managed.
I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand what is important to in-house counsel and anyone working in-house in legal operations who welcomes fresh ideas on strategies to build loyalty and deliver results.
Angelique de Lafontaine is head of legal for corporate projects at Bupa, the international healthcare company
Building Enduring Client Loyalty
There are three types of client: the best client who is loyal and sends all their work to your firm, the neutral client who is indifferent and probably shops around, and the bad one who is unreliable, writes David Pickup. We all know the different types of client, and the trick is not to take on the difficult and unreliable client and to win over the undecided. I have had clients who are doggedly loyal, no matter what I try to do to discourage them! To my competitor, my bad client is their potentially best one, as they will shop around for the best price and are easy to lure away.
The commercial (non-legal) world understands the importance of customer loyalty. They have loyalty cards and members’ clubs and priority schemes. Some organisations treat regular customers badly and save their best deals for new business.
It is interesting how and why we are so loyal. People rarely change banks and many of us never compare energy deals – me for one. Banks do not make it easy to change account and perhaps some have an unwritten rule not to encourage flitting from one to another.
Has coronavirus changed that? Increasingly, firms are more specialist and clients are likely to shop around to get the right deal. In the business world customers want the best deal and are unlikely to care who provides it.
Building Enduring Client Loyalty is about how to increase the top category of loyal clients. The issue is relevant to all firms. We should aim to be the trusted adviser who understands the client’s business and issues, and is willing to go the extra mile. One example is to attend company meetings free of charge. There are probably other things we can offer to keep a client happy. Do we bill every minute of the day we work on their cases, or make it known we are approachable and sometimes offer free advice?
But how do you foster loyalty among clients? Clients are looking for high-quality, reliable, honest and responsive advisers. The quality of service offered in each of a firm’s departments should be consistent. Start the cases in the way you want to go on and pay attention to detail. This message is nothing new but it needs reinforcing. I found the suggestion that we set up ‘client contracts’ a good one. These can set out the solicitor’s and the client’s expectations of each other. Another positive suggestion was routine feedback, not only at the end of a case.
This is a useful and challenging book but tends to overuse management-speak and is heavily influenced by concepts and jargon that would be unfamiliar to many British lawyers.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury