September 9, 2014
In addition to producing good legal work, law firm associates can help make themselves indispensable by becoming client centric. This approach involves seeing the world from the client’s perspective so their needs are met, they feel listened to, and well served and supported. Below are three practices you can take to help become client centric.
1) Understand the business of the client
To create the possibility of having a client for life, you have to truly understand the business of the client and the issues it faces on a day-to-day basis.
If your client is a publicly traded company, you can start by reading the annual and quarterly reports filed with the SEC. These documents contain valuable information about the company, the business challenges it faces, and its strategies for dealing with them. If the client is a privately owned company, read a recent Offering Memorandum that it used to attract venture capital investment or the client’s most recent business plan. After reading these documents, consider going over (without charging for your time) any material for which you have questions or comments.
In addition to the client’s documents, read the documents of the client’s competitors. Comparing your client’s disclosures to those of its competitors will provide lots of information about your client’s industry, the different strategies implemented by the various players, and the hot button industry issues.
Also, find out which trade associations your client belongs to and subscribe to the associations’ publications to get a sense of where things are going in the industry.
2) Provide complimentary services specific to the client
a) Provide annual in-house continuing education (CLE) programs for the client’s in-house lawyers and others who may be interested.
b) Provide annual Federal legislative/policy seminars hosting key players in Washington to discuss Federal legislative and executive branch updates that may affect the client’s business or industry as a whole.
c) Provide State legislative/policy seminars hosting key players working in the State Capitol to discuss State legislative and executive branch updates that may affect the client’s business or industry as a whole.
d) Offer to meet for lunch (at the firm’s expense) on a regular basis to assess how the firm is doing and current needs.
e) Offer to visit the client’s headquarters or other branches at no charge to the extent the client thinks it will be helpful. Go see how the products are actually made and sold. Interact with managers and subordinates. Get your hands dirty.
f) Speak at their industry conferences at the firm’s expense.
3) Provide secondment opportunities that can benefit the client (starting with you)
Secondment, which is the hiring of a lawyer from a law firm on a full-time, fixed-price basis for a set period of time at the client’s offices, benefits the law firm, the seconded attorney and the client. Consider offering yourself up to be seconded.
The client will receive legal services from you at a discount without the pressure of billable hours. And by working in the client’s offices, you can learn the client’s culture and business and develop strong relationships with the in-house legal staff and business teams. That creates an atmosphere of trust which will allow your firm to provide more efficient, knowledgeable legal services when the secondment is over and you return to the law firm.