In his article, Jim Stapleton talks about how the typical traits of lawyers can inhibit them from engaging in effective client feedback – here we synthesize Jim’s key learning points.
Some years back, Jim Stapleton was fortunate enough to help implement independent client feedback programs at two of the Big Five accounting firms in the US. Due to the country’s SEC law, which means that accountancy firms are bound by the law to rotate off their clients, there are few obstacles to undertaking client feedback programs. Unfortunately, he notes that this is not the case in the US legal profession where individual lawyers own the client relationships and therefore in most cases decide whether to ask their clients to participate in a formal review of their work.
Whilst talking to clients is a large part of a lawyer’s role, the neutrality achieved through independent reviews requires a different set of personality traits to many of the traits shown by lawyers in their day job.
In his article, Jim identifies the common traits of attorneys that interfere with an effective and independent client feedback programme, and provides sound advice on how to address them:
Arguing your point. Remaining neutral and open during a client feedback interview is crucial. "I see your point." and "I completely understand," are phrases that work better than arguing with clients.
Solution driven. When carrying out an independent client review, your main purpose is to listen. Even if your solution is correct, you should wait until the end of the client's feedback to summarize their concerns and recommend solutions.
Ignorance. Ignorance is not bliss on this occasion. Clients want to hear your acknowledgement and thus it is important to respond to all of their concerns and complaints when the time is right.
Passing the book. Now is the time to take full responsibility, even if it’s not directly your fault.
Returning the blame. It is important not to point fingers during the client feedback interview, particularly at the client's team. Recognize any issues, then roll them into your solution.
Selling. Keep your promise of making the client interview a "listening" session instead of a "sales" session, but retain the flexibility to offer paid-for solutions at the end and if appropriate.
In summary, independent interviews give lawyers the opportunities to gather the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’. This is achieved by the key traits essential for good interviewers – active listening and enhanced receptivity.
Jim Stapleton is the Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer at Blank Rome LLP, and has a wealth of experience in marketing and business development within the legal sector.
This article has been republished with Jim’s permission.
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