Create a Deeper Relationship With Your Clients
By John Tuerck
It has become axiomatic in legal marketing circles that the best source of new business for law firms is existing clients. While it is difficult to pry clients away from competing law firms, existing clients usually have a variety of legal needs that are filled by many different firms. However, client myopia (i.e., the client’s inability to see beyond the discrete service area provided by an outside law firm) is a powerful impediment to expanding relationships with existing clients.
Client interviews offer a valuable opportunity to address this issue. In addition to serving as a tool to assess the relationship with the client, interviews also allow lawyers to inform the client of additional service offerings that may be of interest. This makes client interviews not just an assessment tool, but also a powerful business development tool.
At my previous in-house position, I led the client interview initiative. One client, a prominent financial services company, awarded virtually all of its patent prosecution work to the firm. During my interview with the client, the general counsel (GC) enthusiastically endorsed the legal team that handled the company’s patent work. However, the GC, who was also juggling high-stakes suits on a number of fronts, was unaware that the law firm also had a strong patent litigation group, not to mention broad capability in complex commercial litigation. As a result, the law firm was missing out on a number of opportunities to expand the scope of work performed for the financial services advisor. The client interview provided an opportunity to inform the GC of the firm’s capabilities and position itself for litigation work.
It goes without saying that preparation is the key to successful client interviews. Before the meeting, an interviewer should perform extensive research on the client’s business, including a discussion with the primary team serving the client, to learn about the client’s needs and aspirations. The interviewer is thus prepared to prospect for opportunities to plug in colleagues from other practice areas who can address other needs. In addition, it may bear fruit to describe to the client significant developments in the firm — perhaps a new lateral group or the launch of an IP-focused office in Silicon Valley. When the client knows more about what a firm does, the door often opens to new work.
Client interviews can help cure client myopia because there is already significant trust between the client and its outside law firm. Landing new clients is extraordinarily difficult in large measure because there is no relationship with the outside law firm. Where there already is a successful relationship, however, there is trust. Preparing and carrying out a thoughtful client interview allows the client to see beyond the narrow scope of work performed by an outside law firm and lead to a deeper relationship.
John D. Tuerck is the director of public relations at Mayer Brown. Drawing on his diverse background as a lawyer and newspaper editor, John develops and executes communications strategies. In previous in-house positions, John has been responsible for public relations programs and communications campaigns, crisis and issues management, client interviews and assessment, social media, content marketing, and internal and executive communications, among other areas.