Redefining Client Partner roles: firms are taking control

Redefining Client Partner roles: firms are taking control

By Kevin Wheeler

Historically, partners in commercial law firms have had their own clients who they have advised, bringing in their associates and fellow partners when required. This lack of firm-wide ownership of the client relationship has left firms exposed when partners choose to move on, as these can easily take their clients with them.

In fact, the lateral hiring of partners in the legal sector only takes place because many clients have greater loyalty to the partner than they do to the firm and therefore partners can take their books of business with them to a new firm. Such lateral hiring is much less common in other professional services sectors where the firms ensure that more effective key account management ties the client into the firm rather than one particular partner.

Senior management teams in law firms are slowly realising that they need to put key account management practices in place to tie clients into the firm and to ensure that they are not exposed if partners decide to depart. A focus on key clients also has other advantages, including:

  • Increasing the amount of work from a particular client by identifying all their legal service needs and subsequently winning a greater share of these instructions through more effective business development.
  • Using client feedback programmes to identify and rectify service failings, to identify opportunities to displace other incumbent lawyers, and to identify the client’s future legal service needs.
  • Investing in understanding a client’s business and industry allows the firm to identify opportunities to better advise the client.
  • Investing in client-specific know-how and training provision to engender increased loyalty with the client.
  • Providing secondments to gain a better understanding of the client’s business and legal needs, and in the process building stronger relationships with key decision-m

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About the author:

Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all aspects of marketing and business development for nearly 30 years. As a consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well as to win new ones. As a certified coach with WABC he works with partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.