Client satisfaction: the new differentiator for law firms

Earlier this week, LexisNexis hosted its annual thought leadership event. Hosted by Mark Smith of LexisNexis, Kishore Sengupta of Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and Sophia Adams Bhatti from The Law Society, the event examined client experience amongst top 50 law firms.

Sophia Adams Bhatti began by introducing the concept of the ‘cultural map’ and explained that understanding the evolution of the cultural landscape in which we operate helps contextualise the changing expectations of clients. To illustrate this point, the example of the healthcare industry was used. Whilst initially viewed as a transactional service with the experts at the core, this has evolved to be a patient-focused industry. What lessons could the legal profession learn from this journey?

The real work began with participants discussing the characteristics of excellent client service. Across the board, communication was king. Participants highlighted listening, asking open questions, proactivity, personality, and understanding as the key components of excellent client relationships. While the participants were convinced that these traits were of great importance, they were hesitant about their ability to integrate these practices into “business as usual”.

The next stage saw participants explore what would drive terrible client service in law firms. The participants exercised their creative muscles and went to town on what could be done to ensure their law firm was never instructed again. Suggestions included asking for upfront payment, aggressive upsell and over-deployment of badly treated paralegals.

Participants then reflected on where actual practice resembling these worst practices could be found in the modern law firm, which revealed some illuminating truths. Issues that were mentioned included client listening (where the listening happens, but no action is taken), the over-reliance on email (telephone calls might be better for enhancing client relationships) and the challenge with law firms providing fee estimates based on unrealistic assumptions.

So how can lawyers make a change?

Kishore Sengupta then outlined how lawyers can differentiate on client service by selecting mechanisms, processes and technological investments that enable lawyers to get work done and improve client relationships. The full set of recommendations can be found in the white paper, Kishore highlighted three areas for participants to consider:

  • Separate subject matter from the transaction: define the relationship first and a healthy transaction will follow. Designing a legal case around the needs of the client before the billing can enhance communication and smooth proceedings
  • Improve client experience through structured processes: input several key processes that enable your law firm to capture client feedback before it escalates. This may include formal structures for feedback.
  • Improve value networks to improve collaboration in the law firm ecosystem and relationships cross case

To download the Client Experience research white paper, click here

 

Filed Under: Practice of Law

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