Innovative Client Practices for the Legal Profession – Valued Partnerships

If you asked lawyers to define the word “partner,” most likely the majority would respond along the lines of “a member of a law practice who shares ownership, profits and liabilities.” But the word "partner” has taken on added significance in recent years as law firms recognize the need to step up service to their clients to remain competitive.

This post is Part 3 in a series of excerpts from Future Law Office: The Evolving Legal Profession and Emerging Workforce of TomorrowRobert Half Legal’s annual research project about emerging legal trends.

More and more law firm managers understand that enhancing client service levels means to instill a sense of “we’re in this together,” a first important step to becoming true partners with their clients. A legal departments’ view of a valued partner is no longer just providing legal advice or litigation consulting, but one that also takes time to understand their client’s business and industry, including taking into account a wide range of internal and external factors that could affect the client’s operations and interests.

Soliciting Client Feedback

Enhanced service also may now involve a law firm that encourages its clients to constructively criticize its work. This effort can pay off significantly. “Actively seeking [client] feedback has allowed us to identify work that is unnecessary, inappropriately staffed, or too expensive compared to the benefit it ultimately creates for our clients,” explains Brett Bartlett, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, chair of the firm’s labor and employment department in Atlanta, a member of the Department's National Steering Committee, and a leader of the firm's National Wage and Hour Litigation Practice Group.
The “voice of the client” process has positively affected the firm’s overall efficiency, he notes. “We realized that in some cases it made sense for an equity partner to handle a task that might normally be assigned to a junior associate, including writing a brief or conducting a client interview, because the partner could do it faster and in the exact way needed. Meanwhile, we also found instances where equity partners were holding on to work that could be assigned to contract lawyers at a lower rate.”
“Client feedback has become even more important to law firms since the recession,” says Cesar L. Alvarez, co-chairman of Greenberg Traurig LLP. “With demand for legal services remaining relatively flat, law firms are focusing more on how to differentiate themselves so they can win new business when opportunities do arise. Improving demand for their product is paramount for law firms in this market – and to do that, they need to understand what their customers want. It’s ‘Marketing 101.’”
Join our conversation about this and other legal trends. Has your firm or department employed particular strategies to strengthen client partnerships? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

To learn more, read our other Future Law Office research posts or download a complimentary copy of the report.

            Part 1: The Future Law Office: The New Realities of Today’s Business Environment
            Part 2: Innovative Client Practices for the Legal Profession – Flexible Legal Fees