According to a new report from LexisNexis, which explores the methods of organic growth used by the UK's leading law firms, nurturing client relationships is key to successful expansion for many practices. But the nature of the most effective client relationships will differ between firms, so it’s important to consider the various factors at play.
Building a solid foundation of strong client relationships is crucial for small firms; 30% of small firms responding to our survey said strong client relationships were the most vital aspect of their overall business growth strategy. Ensuring that clients receive ample attention, particularly from partner level staff, is one method of shoring up the client base.
But since boutique firms are often founded with the specific goal of providing clients with attention from senior lawyers throughout their legal journey, expansion needs to be tempered. Mirthe van Kesteren, Partner and Co-Founder at small firm BVK Partners, says that: “Right from the outset, we have been clear that we do not want to grow to the extent that we cannot personally be involved with our clients’ transactions”.
There are a selection of tools firms have at their disposal to help build successful client relationships, some of which involve legal technology and provision of wider business services. Firms such as Wiggin, Radius Law and Taylor Wessing, combine traditional legal services with legal tech solutions and additional business services, to create tailored packages of legal services for each client.
Legal technology companies are often thought of as a threat to law firms, providing basic process-driven services for a fraction of the cost. But firms are increasingly creating their own LawTech solutions which they make available to their own clients, either for a cost or as part of their overall service. Integrating these types of tech tools into their clients’ businesses can serve to solidify the client relationship.
The growth of the legal arms of the Big Four over recent years has presented a challenge for many firms. Clients who require a variety of business services, such as accountancy and business consultancy, in addition to legal advice, may be tempted to choose a company which can provide a variety of services. Some traditional firms are therefore diversifying more and working in partnership with other professional service providers.
Some Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) essentially act as legal consultants, often working in-house with their clients for the duration of certain projects. Similarly, some of the larger traditional firms routinely offer secondments to their junior staff, which generally entails a one year placement within the in-house teams of clients or other relevant organisations.
One of the key factors in determining growth from client relationships comes down to successfully obtaining and using client feedback.
Whilst many boutique firms cite the closeness of their partners to clients as a natural two-way feedback path, larger outfits often need to take a more structured approach, using regular client surveys and net promoter scores (NPS).
Highlighting the importance of taking on board client feedback, Vicky Brackett, CEO, Business Legal Services, Irwin Mitchell, says: “Feedback is absolutely crucial. We do NPS independently and currently have a score of 65%, which is world class. We also do client feedback programmes in different forms and quarterly where we select a portion of our clients and invite them to submit feedback.”
Although many firms were concerned they would lose business as a result of COVID-19, the series of lockdowns has actually helped some lawyers to strengthen client relationships, as a result of embracing videoconferencing technology. Commenting, Peter Jackson, Chief Executive at international commercial law firm Hill Dickinson, said: “We always had clients around the world but now we are actually ‘seeing’ them more often because we don't have to make arrangements to jump on a plane.”
For more information on how client relationships can boost growth, see our full report.
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