Do you really know what clients value when buying legal services?

When asked “do you really know what clients value when buying legal services?” most lawyers say clients hire them for their expertise. ‘I’m a good lawyer, isn’t that enough?’

Lawyers are crazy smart. The work of a lawyer is intellectually rigorous.  You must be able to demonstrate intelligence, ability to absorb, assimilate and analyze complex material very quickly. Logical reasoning, attention to detail, persuasiveness, sound judgment and strong writing abilities are all strong fundamental tools needed to represent your client successfully.  You are the expert and as such should have all the answers.  Which means you must have to do all the talking.  Not so.

Clients consistently place a higher value on how well you listen to them.  They want to LIKE you.

If the very sound of liking your client or your client wanting to like you makes you squeamish, you are not alone.  Those touchy feely words do not belong in the legal profession and not only that, I don’t like to do that.

And yet, that may very well be the differentiator between you and your competitor when a potential client makes the decision to hire legal counsel.  They want you to know their industry, they want you to anticipate industry challenges before they become legal issues, they want you to respond promptly, they want you to communicate regularly, and they want you to answer the phone.  They want to feel like they are the only client you have.

So, how do you make the conversion? Ask questions and listen actively. Become interested not interesting.

Most clients assume you are a good lawyer but they place a higher value on how well you listen.

How Has The Law Firm Business Model Changed?

Law firm business model changed in the early days of marketing. Most young lawyers relied on the Firm to have the client relationship, they would push the work down to associates, develop their technical skills,  gain legal competence and excel.  Then, of course, if all things went according to plan, you would wait the prescribed amount of time, and were invited into the partnership.  The client was paying the majority of the cost to train these young lawyers and of course they would complain about the amount of the bill and about how many timekeepers were listed on the bill, but feathers could be smoothed down and life went on.

The law firm model is clearly different today.  Economics has played a large part in clients/legal departments taking a larger role in determining how their cases are being handled and demanding more value for their legal services. They are no longer willing to pay for 3-6 timekeepers working on their matter with little or no strategic planning.   The Association of Corporate Counsel has clearly identified their expectations in fees with outside counsel in their ACC Value Challenge.

The ACC Value Challenge is an initiative to reconnect the value and the cost of legal services. Believing that solutions must come from dialogue and a mutual willingness to change, the ACC Value Challenge is based on the concept that law departments can use management practices that enhance the value of legal service spending; and that law firms can reduce their costs to corporate clients and still maintain strong profitability. The ACC Value Challenge promotes the adoption of management practices that allow all participants to achieve their key objectives.”

Firms who are willing to “listen” and respond to this challenge will get the work.  Those that don’t will be left behind.

The competition for legal work is strong and just being a good lawyer is simply not enough to be successful in your practice.  You must have clients.  For some, this sounds like an impossible task.  It’s not.  Business development is a process, step by step.