The Firm: Adding value to the client relationship

By Lauren L. Macaulay

The Daily Record Newswire

Recent survey data on corporate legal spending show a predator's market.

While spending on inside counsel increased in 2010, the legal spending on outside counsel stayed flat or decreased from 2009, according to BTI's Study with Corporate Counsel 2010 and the Hildebrandt Baker Robbins 2010 Law Department Survey.

The implication for law firms is that to grow, they need to take clients -- or market share -- away from other firms while keeping their current clients. The clients you have are your most valuable assets, as it is more costly to lose a client than to convert a prospect.

Now is the time to make sure you are nurturing and adding value to those existing relationships.

Value equates to what the client receives, less what the client pays for it. Think about that for a moment. If a client receives the specific legal service it wants and pays exactly what it feels the service is worth, the value equals zero. How can you add value to the equation to strength your relationship with the client?

When it comes to adding value to the client relationship, think beyond rates. Inside counsel rarely note hiring firms based solely on the lowest rates. Of course, discounting legal rates or alternative fee arrangements can help a client save money, yet value must be added beyond cost.

James Durham, chief marketing and business development officer at the national firm of McGuire Woods, sums it up: "Anything lawyers do to help clients make money, save money, look good or sleep, adds value to the relationship."

1) Be more than a legal advisor

Expand your relationship with your clients beyond that of attorney; look at their company through the lens of a business advisor. Use research to understand the details of their business, industry and market to enable you to spot issues outside of legal matters and advise your client on possible future problems or opportunities.

Review their annual report and current news about the company, analyze information about their competitors, read trade publications to stay current on the trends impacting their industry, and utilize market research to help them strategize about future opportunities and risks.

You can also use the information to identify cross-selling opportunities for your firm, as well as areas in which you can possibly refer business to your client.

2) Provide education

Law firms can provide great value to clients by offering complimentary training for employees or CLE programs for in-house legal staff. Review cases coming through the courts for a client's particular industry, looking for trends to see if there is training that might help your client avoid such claims.

Offer to visit your clients and present on new areas of law, educating them on what it means specifically to their company and notifying them of any required action.

3) Communicate often

Frequent communication with your client is vital to maintaining a valuable relationship. Visit your clients off the clock to listen to them and learn more about their company -- perhaps just to check in, tour a new part of a client's operations or attend a board or other management meeting.

Solicit feedback often (not only at the end of a matter), and be certain to take proactive steps to correct any areas in which the client is not completely satisfied.

Value means something different to every client. By really listening to your clients, you will learn what it means to them.

To a client who is shorthanded, value might mean loaning it an associate who resides in the same office or coordinating its national litigation, overseeing all of the firms free of charge.

For a client who is on the road 50 weeks of the year, value might equate to giving him tickets to take his family to a ball game or a quick update on a case over the phone while he's boarding a flight.

For a client whose company is under fiduciary investigation, perhaps it means being accessible day or night to help navigate inquiries.

Discovering and providing what adds the most value for your client beyond the dollars and cents are key to strengthening and protecting that relationship.


Lauren L. Macaulay is a senior marketing and business development manager at Prince Lobel in Boston and co-chair of the Community Service Committee for the Legal Marketing Association, New England chapter. She can be contacted at

Published: Mon, May 2, 2011