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    Do Your Clients Cringe When Your Documents Show Up—This One Did 

    “I do not want to work with you to select the words, develop the structure of a paragraph—or document—for that matter. What I want is a thoughtful piece where—if I choose—I can add insight or new thinking. Do not send me your draft documents.

    I don't care if you stamp it with a draft stamp or if you are using the document to just share your thoughts. Send me a finished document. If you want to brainstorm and conceptualize, call me or let's meet—don't make me review your unpolished document. It is an utter waste of my time—and don't send any to my staff either!”

    So says the EVP and General Counsel of a newly spun off hospitality company with more than 11,000 employees (Company H) during an in-depth client interview. This expressive client was offering advice as to how his primary law firm (Law Firm Z)—a 700-lawyer firm who hired BTI to conduct client feedback interviews—can improve their client service performance.

    Clearly, we hit a nerve. The previous 42 minutes of this interview were a bit more balanced, offering insightful feedback our client could immediately use to improve their performance—and included new business opportunities. We spoke with the EVP for the last of the 4 interviews we conducted at Company H—to help put the preceding feedback in perspective. As you can see above the EVP closed out our session with a crescendo and a plea.

    His comments and emotion illustrate how the documents had become the thorn in the foot of a very important decision maker. He went on to say he “mentally cringes when he receives these documents.”

    Company H spends more than $40 million on outside counsel.


    Why They Were Losing Business

    Earlier, in the interviews with the direct reports, each individual gave Law Firm Z lower scores on legal skills and quality than competitors. Not by much—but any lower score is cause for immediate concern. We now had the root cause—this client didn't like Law Firm Z’s documents—as in deliverables. This issue was hurting business and preventing our client from getting the prime new matters.

    Law Firm Z had unmatched understanding of this client’s business and worked with them as they were spun off from their former parent company. But the basics had gone astray.

    Unpolished and rough documents make your client’s life more difficult. Your clients believe they are paying top dollar for top talent to produce top quality work. Clients want to take your work and add substantive value—not bring it up to a baseline minimum standard. And, every client has a different standard as to what is finished and what is not. So learning your client’s standards and expectations is a critical success factor here.


    The Genius in the Solution

    After receiving the feedback Law Firm Z set up a training program for every timekeeper working on Company H matters to improve writing skills and set standards for client delivery. The firm used an outside consultant to design most of the program but the genius lies in inviting Company H’s EVP to be part of the program. This client now had direct input into the writing style and protocols and ended up answering countless questions about his business—which he loved.

    The early after-matter assessment shows increases in legal skills and quality, and the relationship partner reports more and better access to the EVP. Most importantly, the client reports he no longer cringes when receiving documents, but smiles and thinks of the training. 



    Your Summertime Double Dog Dare

    Ok. Your firm isn’t into the client feedback thing. Or maybe your firm is into it but only conducts a dozen or maybe even a couple of dozen interviews a year. They haven’t gotten to your client just yet or the feedback is more stream of consciousness than feedback. It’s time to up the game. Here’s BTI’s double dog dare—

    Complete this worksheet (see how below):

    After every assignment ask each partner—better yet, make it each timekeeper—to answer the following simple questions:

    1. How would you rate the client service you received from your colleagues (as a group) on the team?
    2. How would you rate the client service you delivered to your team?
    3. How do you think the client would rate the team’s client service?

    Send the results to your CMO and ask them to remove the timekeepers’ names and calculate a simple average of the rankings. Use a 1 to 10 scale where 10 is the best. Use the downloadable worksheet to record and track the self-rankings. Now:

    • Share the aggregate results while making sure your CMO keeps a record of the individual scores—in case someone wants to check their scores (especially over time).
    • Convene a meeting of no more than 15 minutes to discuss the results with your team.
    • Ask everyone on the team to comment on the overall ranking. Inevitably one person will share their ranking and provide a constructive comment. This is your breakthrough—meaningful dialogue on how to improve client service within the team.

    This self-ranking approach forces your team to think about client service on a regular basis. It only takes 3 or 4 meetings for at least half the members of your team to start filtering their actions through the prism of improving client service. The benefits include a more streamlined project, a happier team, a better work product, and most importantly: a happier client.

    If you want to hit real pay dirt ask your client for their ranking of the team’s client service performance. You will finally have your true reference point to measure performance.

    This will be the start of a new beginning in your client relationships—not to mention building a higher performing team.

    Click here to download the complete, customizable and complimentary Client Feedback Tracking Worksheet for your firm.



    The Client Focus Foible


    How 6 Seconds of Silence Nails New Business

    Your client is looking right at you. No words—just deep in thought. You just said something which made you very different from everyone else. Were you provocative? Did you just change your client’s perspective? If you're like most people you may not exactly know. But you do know you seriously got their attention.

    Most people want to keep talking and fill the silence. Stop yourself. Don’t let the words come out of your mouth. Let your client process and think. This seemingly awkward moment is the time a person needs to reconcile their thoughts—maybe even their own conflicting thoughts. Your words are just a distraction from your client’s very busy mind. And this distraction will prevent you from winning the business you are pitching.

    Click to read more ...


    The Mad Clientist Takes a Vacation

    It’s vacation time for The Mad Clientist and he’ll be kicking back on the deck with a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other.

    The top choice this vacation:

    Life by Keith Richards

    Whatever you’re planning, both BTI and The Mad Clientist hope your summer includes some time for yourself to pick up a book, catch a movie, enjoy a round of golf, sail or just unwind.

    Have a happy 4th of July.

    See you next week.


    The Most Recommended Law Firms

    Last week we shared why only 33.3% of corporate counsel recommend their primary law firm to a peer—a task they do not take lightly. Recommendations are personal statements about the recommender as much as they are about a law firm’s client service, quality and commitment.

    With clients always expecting more, law firms often have to work double time to earn the coveted recommendation given by one corporate counsel to another. Only 25 firms earn an unprompted recommendation 5 years in a row. You can see all 96 firms earning multi-year recommendations in our newest report: BTI Most Recommended Law Firms 2015. View the report below or download the complimentary report here.




    Client Service Suffers Second Biggest Drop — Here’s Why

    Clients want more. And don’t stop wanting more. Ever.

    Only 33.3% of corporate counsel recommend their primary law firm to a peer—a substantial drop from the 40.1% who recommended their primary law firms last year. This marks the second biggest drop in 15 years. Credit one reasonThe Client Expectation Gap.

    Click to read more ...


    Every Firm Can Beat the Spike In Attorney Resistance to Change

    The more things change the more we resist. 54.1% of law firm marketing leaders report partner resistance to change as their most vexing problem—more than doubling from the 22.5% reported in 2005. Back then, corporate legal spending was soaring while law firms worried only about capacity to meet demand. Fast forward 10 years—clients cut law firm rosters to a new low, squeezing every drop of law firm value out of their spending while demanding ever more from law firms—and twice as many partners oppose doing things differently.

    Click to read more ...


    The Great Revenue Deception

    Revenue is so deceptive. As long as we have growth it's all good. But, it hides so many sins and can be so misleading. It can also mask great success. Too bad it sits right up at the top of the income statement for all to see.

    Hiding the Truth

    Revenue growth has this nasty habit of hiding the truth. Not for all firms but more than half. Missing the truth can be devastating.

    Growth in the top line rarely causes a firm to go examine their individual client's year-over-year revenue trends for the last 3 to 5 years. Lack of growth does.

    Click to read more ...


    Clients Drop 11 More Law Firms — Hitting 15-Year Low

    Clients have the smallest law firm panels in 15 years. A typical large company now relies on 36 law firms—down from 47 firms last year. This marks the second year in a row of the shrinking law firm panel. Despite the new low, corporate counsel report no plans to stop trimming their law firm rosters. Larger companies dropped 2 major law firms—and 9 smaller players—from their rosters.

    Cherry Picking Is The New Beauty Pageant

    Corporate counsel have shrinking time and inclination to watch a group of law firms strut their stuff. As a result, we hear little of the beauty pageants so prevalent 10 short years ago. Clients are basing hiring decisions on their daily experiences with these firms; meaning hiring decisions are based on your ongoing behavior instead of your qualifications and pitch.

    Click to read more ...