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In today’s competitive legal markets, firms are beginning to realise that there is no guarantee that their clients will keep on giving them instructions. With clients constantly looking for the greatest expertise, the slickest client service and the best value, and with your competitors crawling all over these same clients, one slip-up by your firm’s lawyers could mean the difference between having a valued client and losing them. The old adage, “you’re only as good as your last deal” has never been truer.
To ensure that their lawyers are delivering the quality service expected and in a way that clients’ are satisfied with, law firm management teams are increasingly implementing post-matter review programmes. But how should these reviews be conducted and what should the firms be doing with the feedback?
Post-matter or post-transaction reviews should be carried out among the firm’s most significant clients, where there is usually a steady stream of instructions. These reviews should not be confused with relationship reviews which are usually carried out every 18-24 months and which cover the entirety of the firm’s relationship with a key client, not just the performance on one specific matter. In fact, post-matter reviews are a crucial adjunct to relationship reviews because if the client has become dissatisfied with the firm, that failing needs to be identified and rectified immediately, not at the next relationship review. The longer the problem is left unresolved, the greater the chance that the client will defect and appoint another law firm.
The level of matter qualifying for a post-matter review will depend on the firm: a magic circle firm may only review those matters valued at more than £50,000, whilst a smaller firm may review everything where at least £5,000 has been billed. What is important is that the programme is comprehensive and mandatory. If partners are allowed to “nominate” clients for review, it is only human nature that some may want to avoid a review where they know they and their team have not performed well. Management teams will want to have confidence that their programme is picking up all of those clients who are dissatisfied, so that these problems can be remedied quickly.
In my experience, post-matter reviews are best kept short, so as not to inconvenience the client. A telephone interview lasting around 10 minutes works best. You can elicit feedback using an online questionnaire, but the response rates tend to be low which means that you will have to chase responses, and the information that you glean from the client will not be as “rich”, as none of us like typing out long responses to open-ended questions online. Having someone ring the client also demonstrates how important the feedback exercise is to the firm. The best feedback is obtained if the calls are made by independent third parties, as clients will be most open and honest in their feedback when speaking with someone from outside the firm.
The areas covered by a post-matter review should include the following:
• Performance of the team against KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), e.g. quality of advice, speed of response, value for money, etc.
• Performance of the individual team members
• Areas for improvement
• Overall satisfaction with the service received
• Likelihood of using the firm for similar transactions in the future
It has become fashionable in the legal sector to use the Net Promoter Score to assess the client’s satisfaction with the service and hence the likelihood of them referring the firm to others. There are a number of concerns about this measure and personally I am not a fan. I would rather ask questions which elicit the client’s satisfaction with the work carried out and the likelihood of them instructing the firm on the next similar deal/case/project that they have.
Once completed, the findings from such reviews should be made available to the client service team as quickly as possible, so that they can deal promptly with any issues identified by the client. At Wheeler Associates, we use a CATI (Computer Automated Telephone Interviewing) system to populate a report template, which allows us to e-mail the review report to the appropriate people as soon as an interview has been completed. Aggregating post-matter feedback data allows the firm’s management to analyse the performance of individual lawyers (this data can be used in appraisals), departments and offices. “Early warning systems” can be set up to alert management to matters where the firm has underperformed, so that they can step in and ensure that remedial action is being taken.
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