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Pay Attention

What Do Clients Want? It’s Screamingly Obvious

By Jordan Furlong

I suppose there are still lawyers and law firms out there asking themselves the question: “What is it that clients want?” Some of them continue to invest a substantial amount of money and time in detailed surveys of their existing clients, poring over the results and trying to read the tea leaves therein.

Most of these lawyers, unfortunately, rarely follow through on their survey efforts, because the results aren’t what they want to hear. Law firms would have to change how they do business in order to truly meet many client needs, and that’s just not on the table. And of course, most lawyers don’t even go that distance. They prefer not to speak with clients unless it’s absolutely necessary and entirely billable.

For these lawyers, however, and for those whose client survey budgets have been eliminated recently, I have some good news. You can find out what clients want today — easily, at no charge, without ever having to pick up the phone.

Here are three ways to do it:

1. Read your clients’ RFPs. Every time a corporate law department issues a Request For Proposals (which for some departments is a daily occurrence), it’s publishing its very own wish list: specific expertise, non-hourly pricing, indicia of responsiveness, diversity metrics, etc. Instead of just filling in blanks with your boilerplate response, really read what the client is asking for, and use it to adjust your firm’s settings.

2. Review corporate counsel CLE. In-house lawyer associations like the ACC and CCCA offer reams of CLE programming, based on extensive research into the needs of their members. Private-sector CLE providers do the same to ensure high enrollment in their courses. They’ve done the heavy lifting for you, so review the resulting curricula and ask whether your firm could give clients a seminar on any of these topics.

3. Analyze your competition. It’s a myth that the legal market is tepid; it’s not. The market for what law firms sell, how, and at what price — that’s definitely slack. But emerging competitors to law firms (LPOs, temp lawyers, software) are doing great. What are they offering, how, and at what price, that is exciting your clients and getting their business? Find out fast, and start replicating it.

The Real Question

Clients aren’t hiding their wants and needs, they’re shouting them from the rooftops. Any lawyer who says he’s not sure what his clients want is paying zero attention. The real question law firms need to ask, the only one that matters, is: “What are we going to do about it?”

Jordan Furlong delivers dynamic and thought-provoking presentations to law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. His blog, Law21: Dispatches from a Legal Profession on the Brink, has been named to the ABA Journal Blawg Hall of Fame. Follow him @Jordan_Law21

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

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Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong is a leading analyst of the global legal market and forecaster of its future development. A writer and consultant, he helps lawyers and law firms navigate the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. His book, “Evolutionary Road: A Strategic Guide to Your Law Firm’s Future” is available in the Attorney at Work bookstore. Read his blog Law21 and watch for his new book, “Law is a Buyer’s Market: Building a Client-First Law Firm in a Brand New Legal World.” Follow Jordon @Jordan_Law21.

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