Creating a client-first culture has become a priority for law firms across the UK. Lawyers increasingly argue that putting the client first is an essential ingredient for future success. Despite the importance of creating such a culture, however, reports have suggested that firms are failing to act. To find out how law firms can practically become more client- focussed, we spoke to a series of experts:
- Chad Burton, CEO - CuroLegal
- Alex McPherson, Co-Founder and Partner - IgnitionLaw
- Ed Fletcher, Partner - Fletchers Solicitors
- Ben Trott, Founder - Marketing Lawyers
- Viv Williams, Consulting Director - Symphony Legal
According to the Bellwether Report 2018: The Culture Clash, law firms are increasingly prioritising client-first cultures. 47% of respondents to the Bellwether report stated, for example, that ensuring firms possess a client-first culture is the top priority to ensure future success.
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What does it mean to have a client-first culture?
Client-first cultures can come in various forms, each of which largely depends on the sort of clients and the practice area of firms. Chad Burton says the needs of firms inevitably vary and thus the client-first approach must vary, too.
According to Burton, however, there are some common traits. He highlights, for example, the importance of solid intake, internal firm processes, effective team communication, constant client communication, relevant technology and competitive pricing.
For Alex McPherson, client-first culture means working across various boundaries to achieve the best results. This means working with entrepreneurs, SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups—anything which focuses on providing high quality legal advice that clients need. Perhaps most important, however, is placing the customer at the heart of the firm.
Ed Fletcher says client-first firms are organisations in which every team member’s first thought is ‘will this improve the experience of my customer?’ as opposed to ‘is this going to improve things for me?’ and understanding the two are not mutually exclusive.
What does a client-first culture look like?
The prioritisation of customers or clients can be achieved, McPherson says, by ensuring a qualified individual with first class experience delivers the product and the service, rather than complete dependence on computers.
Firms should utilise technology for communication, but ensure the relationships remain personal and open, as McPherson explains: ‘Transparency on cost ahead of time and honesty are really important.’
Burton also highlights the importance of utilising technology. He says firms should use modern case management and project management software to centralise client’s information to ensure it is accessible to your team. The technology should support and automate your processes as much as possible without sacrificing the personal approach to building client relationships.
Effective communication, which goes beyond the simple legal matters, is a hallmark of a client-first culture. As Ben Trott says: “If you run through a checklist every time you speak which provides the answers to all your questions but doesn’t answer any of theirs, then you’ve got it the wrong way round.”
What are practical steps for law firms to create a client-first culture?
The Bellwether report suggests that, while creating a client-first culture is important, few respondents believe their firms are doing enough to encourage such culture. Only 19% of respondents suggested their firms had done ‘very well’ to encourage client-first culture.
So here are 5 practical steps for law firms to take:
- Ask for feedback from clients on performance. An effective tool for firms, for example, is the Net Promoter Score.
- Treat customer feedback in the same way one would treat financial
results - measured and regularly reviewed, from weekly executive
meetings to board level discussion.
- Creating service standards that encourages everyone in your firm to put clients first will pay dividends.
- Ensure you have mapped all client touchpoints – so you know the journey of your clients and can begin to optimise and tweak the process.
- Track data on firm key performance indicators and watch out for changes to ensure proactivity in fixing problems or capitalising on successes.
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