Why Smart Law Firms Listen to Clients

“For the smartest firms the opportunities are waiting to be seized, but it will take a dynamic and questioning mindset and an ability to look at the business from the client’s point of view, to be consistently successful.”   (The Age of the Client – LexisNexis Bellwether Report)

In this 3-part series of short articles, we explain how law firms are using “independent client listening” to generate new business, strengthen ties with clients (referrers and business partners too); to develop new service propositions valued more by clients, innovate on service delivery and develop a client-focused culture across the business. It helps lawyers to find tangible new ways to differentiate from competitors and future-proof relationships with clients.

How does your legal practice become one of the “smartest” and  how do you keep the momentum going?

“Smart” Firms Listen to clients to gear up with confidence

To be one of these “smartest firms”, lawyers need to listen more intently than ever before to clients; to understand what the people who run any business envisage for their future. What they want to achieve … for the business and for themselves. You want to know what your practice can do to add more value to your service for them and to make it tangible.

The best way to find out about this is to ask and explore options; but ask with an open mind and a willingness to change, adapt and develop what you currently offer, to develop and deliver new service propositions.

Independent Client Listening is …

  • The best first step when you want to introduce (or re-launch) a meaningful CRM “Client Relationship Management” strategy or initiative; one which enables you to differentiate your practice from competitors.
  • A catalyst to develop new services and methods of delivery that add value to your services; which differentiate your practice from the competition. It enables law firms to explore options to disrupt the status quo for the better and to innovate; do things very differently.
  • Shared Reflection and Innovation – to identify what might be possible; then explore options and find solutions that hadn’t been considered (possible) before.
  • Ammunition to help change attitudes and practices. Once lawyers know what clients really want, they generally knuckle down to find the best way to deliver it. It gives your people confidence to innovate and makes a more interactive relationship with clients more rewarding.
  • A successful way to generate substantial new business from existing clients.
  • Not just for clients. It works for introducers, referrers and business partners too.

Help Lawyers Visualise What Can Differentiate

Our experience shows that most lawyers need help to envisage – sometimes radically different – new ways of working with and providing services to clients and business partners; often involving more collaborative and integrated working relationships. With long-standing relationships, it can be very difficult to see the wood from the trees as handling day-to-day work the way we currently do becomes the norm. It is very difficult to consider any significant change, if it is all running along nicely; as it often does. But then …

“80% of lawyers think they’re delivering above average service … but only 40% of clients say they are receiving it.”   (The Age of the Client, LexisNexis Bellwether Report)

The way people do business has been transformed in even the last 5 years, with dramatic developments in IT, communications, working practices, efficiency, restructuring of business, working patterns, attitudes to collaboration, use of data and much more; all of which creates new challenges and opportunities. Every owner and manager in business clients you work with is considering how best to respond and capitalise on these developments – now and for the future.

Do you know what they are thinking and how best to respond?

Every business owner, CEO, FD and COO thinks – just like you – that what they do makes a difference; they can’t all be thinking and doing the same. They are looking to play to their strengths and the strengths of their business to make them successful in their world.

How can you play some part in making that happen, even if only in some small way for now?

What changes could be made in the way you deal with them and their business to help them achieve their personal and business goals and objectives? Breaking the status quo is otherwise very hard to justify.

Does client listening work? What are the results?

Resoundingly, yes. As a direct result, we can demonstrate that:

  • Closer and more personal working relationships have developed.
  • Radically new service propositions have been introduced.
  • Issues that would have remained hidden have been exposed and addressed successfully.
  • Clients that would have been lost have been retained.
  • New instructions have started to flow from new parts of the business.
  • More collaborative and integrated ways of working together have been developed.
  • Lawyers get inspired by clients and become more confident to innovate.

This kind of approach enables your good people to get better in managing client relationships, which we see as even more critical for law firms going forwards.

The 10 Key Steps

We will elaborate on each of these in Part 3 of this series “Getting Started: How Independent Client Listening Works In Practice” but so that you can see what is involved here, those key steps are:

  1. Choose the clients – between 5 and 20 for a pilot.
  2. Audit and review each with us – with your key contact at each
  3. We research the business, the people and the sector
  4. We agree discussion topics with you.
  5. You get approval to engage from the key contact at the client
  6. We engage, set up and deal with a batch of meetings
  7. You thank the client after the meeting and give timescales for a response
  8. We report back to you with findings, conclusions and recommendations. We run at least one internal workshop to explore information gathered and response
  9. Further internal discussions to share learning, agree and action steps needed to respond.
  10. You report back to client on proposed actions – and proceed from there.

What does Independent Client Listening Feel Like?

We will explain in Part 2, why independent client listening is highly effective. For now, here are a few of the questions we are likely to include in the tailored “Discussion Topics” document that we use as the starting agenda for an interview with each client involved. Some examples to give a feel for just part of the territory we cover with most clients:

  • What do you see as your main business challenges and opportunities over the next 18 months?
  • Where is your personal focus likely to be during that time? Your key priorities? What would success look like for you? Any performance measures?
  • Have you discussed/considered how a strategic relationship with providers of lawyer services can be most valuable to your business? What bearing could this have on which law firms you instruct?
  • What changes (if any) would you like to see made to the team within [Law Firm] that deals with your work and how they operate?
  • How would you like to see the relationship with the firm develop over the next 12-24 months?
  • If the firm were to make just 2 key improvements, what do you think they should be?

Coming soon:

PART 2: Why “Independent” Client Listening Works Best

PART 3: Getting Started: How Independent Client Listening Works Inpractice.

For more information or to discuss how this could work for your practice – in confidence and with no obligation – contact Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or at acarton@inpractice.co.ukwww.inpractice.co.uk

Why and how the CMgr “Chartered Manager” qualification can unleash the potential of managers in your law firm.

It is widely agreed that we need to develop more management skills in law firms to generate and implement the innovation and change that is needed now; to enable firms to differentiate their service and to find ways to deliver more value.

I hadn’t heard much about the Chartered Management Institute’s “Chartered Manager” – CMgr – qualification before.  However, having researched it recently, I am impressed now by how it works;  just as I was with Legal Service Apprenticeships a few years back, which have proved a big success in law firms.

Qualifying as a Chartered Manager is a relatively condensed approach to learning.  It appears to fit better with the ongoing demands of the day job when compared with other similar qualifications. It is very practical, with live project work done as part of the programme and the results (researched and reported in depth in the report that you can download below) certainly appear to justify this investment to develop new skills and confidence in your people.

The snippets below might prompt lawyers and other managers to find out more about this as an option from your Learning & Development or HR Managers and Directors.  Firstly, here are some assured comments based on personal experience from the CEO of Greater Manchester’s Police Federation who earned the qualification …

 

Some informative downloads:

NEXT STEPS?  How to get on the right path for this qualification?

I suggest that you explore this new CMgr Programme Tailored for Managers in Law Firms due to run soon in London & Manchester.

Next Level Impact and e-Alliance (both specialists in learning and development in the legal sector) have combined their experience and resources to deliver a CMI (Chartered Management Institute) accredited programme tailored specifically for law firms.  It takes account of, for example, the role of Lexcel and the SRA’s new competency requirements for solicitors in both the structure of the programme and the “improvement projects” that are an essential part of the learning experience; also the obligations and opportunities created by ABS’ and other significant developments that impact on law firms.

The programme comprises condensed learning in 3 insightful Masterclasses, with the skills learned then applied in practice.   Successful completion requires participants to deliver an “improvement project” within their organisation to demonstrate and support their progress towards recognition as an “Chartered Manager,” accredited by the Chartered Management Institute.  Participants are supported by extensive online learning and research resources.

Participants become a student of the prestigous CMI on enrollment and then select the level of qualification they want to achieve, with their involvement then tailored to enable them to meet that level.  They will become full CMI members on completion.

The 3 Masterclasses cover:

  1. Leadership & Management Essentials
  2. Unleashing Leadership & Management Potential
  3. Maxmising Effectiveness

More Information about the content of each of these masterclasses is included in the programme outline that you can download here >>

To explore further and discuss your particular requirements, please contact the Programme Coordinator, John Baxter on 01787 370735 or at john.baxter@ea-learningtech.com

Clients and law firms rate “Value” differently. So what?

“Growing evidence reveals that firms define ‘giving value’ very differently from the way clients assess whether they receive it. There are three simple things a firm can do to get – and stay – on the same page as the executives paying their bills.”

Why does this matter?

As an example: Helping lawyers become more effective at “Pricing” to agree and recover higher fees is high on the agenda for most firms at the minute and quite rightly too.

However, most lawyers still bypass the first critical step – listening to the client – which throws this and just about every other initiative that impacts on client experience, out of kilter. Not listening properly is likely to at least substantially dilute the results of many of the new initiatives in which progressive law firms are currently investing.

Listen to clients (and introducers too) at the beginning to make sure you are aiming to implement a solution that gives them what they value most; not what you think they do.  The understanding that will develop at this point will establish a sound base for new initiatives, including management of client relationships themselves.

On our pricing example – Lawyers can only agree the “best” price that a client is willing to pay (whatever pricing model they use) if the client feels that a lawyer’s involvement helps or enables them to meet the challenges that matter most to them, in a way that works best for them. Business owners and execs are interested in how it impacts on them personally, on their role in the business and on the business itself – so you need to hear all of this whenever possible.

We say – talk to the owners or execs at the client business first to understand what they value (including what is currently missing), make time to explore new options; how the service could change to deliver more value for the client.  Then base your pricing (process or relationship management as discussed below) on the components and value to the client of the new service and relationship; not the old – and the sooner the better if you want to retain good clients.

Lawyers can’t get the relationship or the service right for the client until they know what clients really “value”.  Most think they do, but make too many assumptions when options and expectations are changing quickly; and where every client is different and developing at a different speed.

Many firms are introducing big and expensive changes on Process Improvement, CRM, Artificial Intelligence and wider Technology at the minute (again quite rightly), with the aim of reducing costs and improving service … but are these initiatives being developed with a real understanding of what different clients want from them – apart from a reduction in price?

How do you find out?

All 3 solutions proposed in this informative article (well worth reading) – from James Bliwas – involve 1 key step; “listening to clients”.   I would take that further to say … listen to clients talking about their business, what is expected of them and their challenges, with an open mind and a clean sheet on what the “legal” service could look like. Be prepared to start again … and price the service that flows from this discussion – not the one you provide today.

Find out more about client listening here >>  

Why do it?  

Most firms miss the mark because they don’t dig deep enough, so don’t discover what could be done differently that might, for example, involve more or different collaboration, integration or communication … and more.  Often “less is more” so there can be opportunities to cut out wasted time and steps on both sides; for the lawyer and the client.  New options in these areas have been developing quickly; perhaps even faster and further with some clients than with many law firms.

There is also a tendency in reviewing relationships to look backwards, rather than forwards.

Talk about other aspects of the business that matters to clients … as well as price.  There are usually missed opportunities to make the relationship stronger beyond the handling of individual legal transactions.  What are they … for each client?  Find them.  Things that will keep the client coming back and justify a better return for everyone from the relationship.  To find out what those opportunities are, take time out to discuss and explore options.

Then find ways to share this with your people to develop their understanding so that you can put meaningful new initiatives into practice.  Modify current services, develop new,  introduce better communication, collaboration and integration and whatever else it takes to help clients want to keep coming back.

Our Client Listening is NOT about “client satisfaction”.  We focus on looking forwards in every relationship to new options and opportunities to do better and do more of what the client wants, willing to challenge established ways of working together; but few firms do this effectively.

Make a start to open up these new opportunities effectively by talking to us first.

FREE Consultation: Move to a more efficient paper-lite working environment, with better use of e-documents.

transition-from-paper-to-paperlite-and-digital-with-tba-inpracticeExplore this low risk, high ROI approach to moving your practice to more “paper-lite” working and use of Digital.

“The audit and analysis they performed enabled us to increase the productivity of the Admin/Support team and reduce the costs of document output across the firm. Excellent use of our time and a valuable resource” – Operations Director, Express Solicitors.

Our process automation partners, TBA Group will introduce how they are working with other firms to reduce paper/print volumes, exploring how that can be applied most effectively in your practice to enable you to transition from Paper to Digital.

When it comes to funding the work on a project, TBA will share the risk with you so you pay ONLY a % of the agreed savings that result.

TBA’s Managing Director, Alex Hutchinson will cover all the key steps that ensure the success of a project. He will also discuss any areas where you would like to increase the Operational Efficiency of Documents within your practice, offering free advice on how to make this work in the context of your particular business, taking account of, for example:

  • Your existing use of technology and any options as yet untapped.
  • The nature of the work you handle.
  • Size of your practice and spread of offices.
  • Skills and attitudes of your employees, which can often be critical
  • The needs of your clients and introducers of work.

There is no obligation to progress the discussion further. However, you will learn a good deal about how the TBA approach has successfully added value and increased the Net Profit of similar businesses; a win/win opportunity.

If you go ahead with a project:  TBA Group’s fees are a % of agreed financial savings achieved so they share your risk and their goals are aligned with yours.

For more testimonials on Inpractice UK services to the legal sector – go here >>

To book a consultation with TBA Group, email solutions@inpractice.co.uk or call +44 (0)7779 653105 in confidence, with no obligation.

A modern telephony system can enable your practice to increase fees and profits if you can see what is happening to incoming calls …

 … but only (of course) if you use the information and additional features effectively to improve how calls are handled!  Think more widely about the potential benefits you can achieve if you are considering an upgrade.  Here is just some of the why and how.

Concert Networks’ findings from a recent “Secret Shopper” research into how law firms respond to telephone calls makes depressing reading if you are a partner in virtually any of the firms called.  On average the callers waited on hold for 47 seconds. When you consider that callers become frustrated after being on hold for 20 seconds or more, it is clear that the industry has room for big improvements.

How effectively does your practice handle inbound calls? 

You probably don’t know! If you do, it will probably be because you have already invested in a system with this kind of functionality that goes beyond just handling the call.  Even then, are you putting it to full use yet?  Maybe we can help you make it do more?

Concert Networks’ innovative Cloud Telephony with Call Reporting tools can give you information such as time to answer, call abandoned rate, time on hold and much more; and you can report on this information, giving department heads and senior management an accurate picture of each caller’s experience when they call your firm.

Reliable information to help constantly improve your use of resources

Calls by site - screenshot 221116.png

This reliable real-time, easily accessible data enables you to make informed decisions about the most appropriate working patterns, where and when more (or less) people should be available to answer calls; and to organise effective routing of calls.  It gives you a truly objective way to monitor staff performance and to provide feedback to them to engage them in future improvements too. Without this information, that is (and has been for most firms) very difficult to achieve.

Let your people see what’s happening – to help them improve

Wallboard - screenshot 221116.png

You don’t need to go this far .. but you can in areas of the business where it is appropriate  It lets you see which offices or departments are receiving the most calls, where there are bottlenecks that need to be resolved and much more. ‘Heads-up’ dashboards give you the real time data you need to act accordingly.

As an example of just some of what you could achieve … Bakers Solicitors, saved £500 a month and significantly reduced the number of calls being missed when they switched to Concert Networks’ Cloud Telephony system. Read the case study here.

To find out more about how Call Reporting can help you to increase client satisfaction, win more new business and grow faster request a FREE demo today by clicking on this link.

 

Benchmark your technology against other legal practices with LSN … requiring them to support a good cause too.

lsn-it-landscapeThe Legal Support Network (“LSN”) have produced excellent valuable information on use of technology in law firms from their “IT Landscape” surveys in the past … and they are at it again, compiling more information that they are willing to share with participating law firms.  This is information that can help you benchmark your use of IT and open up fresh thinking amongst your colleagues about what you might do differently – and better – in this critical area.

This is your chance to take part in this year’s IT Landscape survey, to get access to that shared information AND to enable LSN to contribute to worthwhile charities as a result of your participation too.  Feels like win-win all round?

Please take the survey here >>  LSN say it should take “just a few minutes; around 10-15”.

LSN will donate £5 to Shelter for every significantly filled in response, until we get to a donation of £300. If they get more than 100 responses, they will up the maximum to £350. If they get 150, we’ll make it £400.


If you have any questions, please contact Rupert Collins-White, editor-in-chief, Briefing magazine at LSN at rupertw@lsn.co.uk or on 0870 112 5058.