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    March 2nd, 2008

    So you got the looks but have you got the touch
    Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
    But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
    That don’t impress me much…

    Words and Music by Shania Twain

    This week I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of distinguished corporate counsel for the Legal Marketing Association – Vancouver Chapter speaking on: How in-house counsel view their lawyers, law firms and their marketing and business development efforts.

    Panelists were Marie-France Leroi, Senior Counsel at Terasen Inc, Gigi Chen-Ku, General Counsel for Translink, Heather Northrup, Senior Counsel with RBC Financial Group and Sue Doi, Counsel for Intrawest ULC. There was a great deal of discussion on the topic on how outside counsel can best work with in-house counsel. During the presentation we had a question from the floor that opened up a whole new area of discussion …and that was novel and interesting as well.

    The question was in the context of the corporate client wanting to provide feedback to the outside firm – but the outside firm never appearing open or willing to hear the message. Worse, the danger signs are there for the outside law firm – calls by in-house counsel are not being returned promptly, the invoices appear to include ‘education time’ for the associates, the firm now appears to have an attitude of ‘entitlement’…among others. So the question is – what is the best way for the outside firm to hear the message early enough to prevent the loss of the client?

    The solution that was proposed from the audience (some of the best tips come from the attendees during presentations!) was for the marketing department to establish one person…call them a client concierge…to establish a line of communication with the client. The client concierge would be there to act in a similar manner to a concierge in the best hotels…to ensure that the questions and needs of the hotel guests are being met. The client concierge can hear the concerns and questions of the client – and ensure that they are directed to the right people in the law firm – and act as an early-warning system to ensure that the law firm is not only attentive to the client but is seen as being proactive and open. This implicitly recognizes that while the legal services may be top-notch, the service levels surrounding the delivery of those legal services may not be.

    It is an interesting concept and one that recognizes that the firm as a whole is a team and the team has an overarching reason (*or reasons*) to ensure that the client is happy and has an open channel to raise small concerns before they jeopardize the entire client relationship. It is really a question of client ‘handling’ and ensuring that the firm has the right ‘touch’ for the client and continues to impress the client with all that they do.

    This entry was posted on Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 at 10:25 pm and is filed under Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    4 Responses to “Client Concierge…An Idea Whose Time has Come?”
    1. Doug Cornelius Says:

      David -

      That is an interesting idea. The problem is finding the right skill set. I am not sure that marketing is the right place.

      First, the client may be coming with legal questions and you would need some legal analysis to push things in the right direction.

      Second, I think most clients would want some more personalized service, rather than a generic concierge to take their calls. Lots of attorney/client relationship is based on the personal connection between the parties.

      Third, I think that is a hard sell to partners who would not want that personal relationship interfered with.

      That being said, I think it is important to put together a multi-disciplinary team to address the client needs for legal services and the service around those legal service.

      Part of that is giving the client some insight into the firm. What other services can the firm deliver? Who are the non-attorneys in the firm who can help meet the client needs?

      Case in point, how many law firms publish non-lawyer contact information on their websites?

    2. admin Says:

      Doug:

      I agree totally on the fact that this would *initially* be a hard sell to partners…but remember that so was bringing in professional law firm management and a host of other ideas that are *now* taken for granted – such as lawyers being able to advertise.

      At some level, change involves challenging some long-standing belief or beliefs. A client concierge challenges the assumption that only a lawyer is responsible for keeping the client happy. As we all know, it is usually a legal assistant who is the grease on the wheel – ensuring that the client can call someone and be able to raise issues, concerns etc. A client concierge would formalize this relationship and make the implicit – explicit.

      Furthermore, a client concierge would necessarily have to be part of the ‘team’ – but could deliver a *great* deal more client-focused attention at a much lower cost that lawyers.

      This is a win-win..the firm wins from the greater needs fulfillment, the firm wins from having a happier client and presumably the bottom-line wins from receiving more work – simply due to the fact that the client is happier with the law firm-client relationship. We all know those studies that say for client-retention we have to exceed the expectations of the clients..not just fulfill them. Who couldn’t use a client who speaks well of their law firm?

      I agree with you about the non-lawyer contact information not being found on legal websites. How many times have you gone to a site trying to find a legal assistant or someone on the management team? This illustrates exactly my point..that law firms have this assumption that *only* the lawyers contact the clients! Time for a change….

      Cheers,

      Dave

    3. Barb Cotton Says:

      Hi Dave-maybe it is because I run a small (6 lawyer) firm, but I can not fathom a buffer between the all important lawyer-client relationship.

      Take care-

      Barb Cotton

    4. admin Says:

      Barb:

      Not a buffer – a contact for a client to call when they *don’t* want to call the lawyer. We all know that people avoid conflict..this is a ‘safety valve’ that allows the client to raise issues that are troubling them without having to confront the lawyer (who *may* be the source of the problem!). This is a safe way to build trust with the client that avoids the lawyer having to lose face or worse, get into a negative exchange with the client. We have seen the growth of ‘ombudsmen’ in other areas – allowing people to raise issues and concerns that they have with an organization in a trusted way. This is a similar concept.

      Cheers and thanks,

      Dave

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