Strong, Long-Term

Your Guide to Client Retention

Once your initial investment has paid off and you have won the client’s trust and business, the relationship-building can begin in earnest.

Establish the ground rules

A kick-off meeting is de rigueur, but the quality of the agenda for that all-important official start to the relationship can dictate its future course. 

A well-planned schedule which covers the matters of most importance to the client and demonstrates your commercial focus and willingness to flex to fit your client, will propel the relationship to new heights. One which simply lays out your terms and way of working will only serve to sow seeds of doubt in the client’s mind.

Open the lines of communication

Time-pressed clients abhor having to repeat themselves. Establishing a slick and efficient flow of information from in-house counsel to client team at the outset will eliminate the need for re-briefing – which can test clients’ patience and erode trust.

Learn to read clients’ signals

It is often the small things which become larger problems. Being sensitive to changes in the tone of communication, levels of contact and the quantity and type of work clients request can make all the difference. Early diagnosis of behavioral change is an effective way of preventing minor issues from escalating into crises.

Watch, ask, listen, learn. Repeat

All too often relationships get off to a flying start and then begin to falter as new priorities take over. Keeping bonds strong demands keen powers of observation, acute listening skills, sustained curiosity and eagerness to learn – throughout the life of the relationship. 

Share knowledge generously

Exposed to a wide range of different clients with varying problems across many sectors, law firms are constantly experiencing new ways of tackling universal issues.

Given in-house counsel say that they would value hearing from their law firm advisors how other clients, faced with similar problems, have successfully found solutions.

Don’t overpromise

Once the relationship is established, realism is all-important. Billing is one important area in which overpromising can backfire badly. Failing to complete a piece of work within the stated budget/timescale is more palatable for clients if the issue is flagged up in advance. Going over time and budget without warning severely compromises relationships. 

Take the long-term view

The way you act says a lot about the value you place on the relationship you have with your client. A willingness to be flexible and meet clients half way indicates a desire for a longer term working relationship – and is more likely to bring one about.

Sticking fast to rigid structures, traditional ways of working and standard billing practices are red flags to GCs. In-house teams have had to radically alter the way they operate and serve their businesses so they need their advisors to move with the same agility.

Speed is of the essence

As general counsel find themselves under intensifying pressure to deliver more with less, they now expect their external advisors to work to the same exacting standards.

Concrete, concise, relevant and commercially sound advice – delivered quickly and consistently – are central to winning and keeping client confidence.

Think laterally

In a world where traditional thinking still dominates, doing something a little differently to help the client stands out.

Respecting the time constraints that in-house teams face by finding time-saving solutions to their problems is an effective way of gaining favor with in-house counsel. For example, instead of inviting in-house lawyers to a seminar on environmental law, why not write a draft policy that they can customize to use across their company. 

It demonstrates your expertise in environmental law as effectively as a seminar would but, more importantly, shows that you understand clients’ pressures and provide valuable help in overcoming them.

Think like a client

As part of our Sharplegal research, we asked in-house counsel about the areas in which they felt that lawyers needed additional training or development. 

The most common response was that they needed to improve their understanding of clients’ businesses and become more commercial/business savvy. 

“More knowledge of our business. [In any particular area?] No just understanding the business enables them to be more accurate with their responses.”
US | Retail/Wholesale 

“I would want them to all be quicker, more precise and get a better understanding of the business environment. The focus on customer service, not whatever garbage they learned in law school.”
Canada | Technology/Media/Telecommunications

The onus is clearly on law firms to invest more time and effort in getting under the skin of their clients in order to provide high quality advice throughout the relationship and gain loyalty. 

At a fundamental level, the larger the burden you are able to lift from clients’ shoulders, the stronger the relationship is likely to become. Time invested in helping clients to look good within their organizations by solving their problems and getting through work quickly and accurately will be repaid many times over in loyalty.

For further information, please contact Susan Pettit or call +44 (0)808 178 3020

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