Attorneys often think clients simply want exceptional legal counsel, said Mr. Corcoran, but equally important is understanding their business velocity.
“Understanding how clients think, how they make decisions and how they budget for matters is the key to winning and keeping clients,” added Mr. Corcoran.
In spite of this, he frequently sees attorneys, even in highly competitive law firms, miss the mark in these areas.
“It shows attorneys are operating in different orbits than their clients,” said Mr. Corcoran of the situation.
However, there are a few ways attorneys can entrench themselves more deeply in their clients’ business and strengthen their relationships, and it has a lot less to do with providing great legal counsel (that’s a given) and a lot more to do with, well—collaborating with clients.
In the conversation, he offered three effective ways attorneys can demonstrate their value and align themselves more closely with their clients’ business:
- Gain Knowledge about Client Budgeting and Fiscal Calendars. Knowing when budgets are submitted is a crucial process for every business function, and legal clients are no exception. In other words, attorneys should become knowledgeable about how their clients budget for matters and when they submit their budgets against the company’s fiscal calendar. Often, when an attorney is asked to name a client’s budget schedule, they don’t have the answer. Easy solution—begin important dialogues with clients about matter budgeting and timing.
- Understand Client Scorecards and Metrics. Understanding what type of scorecards or metrics clients use to measure quality of legal services is paramount. This can help attorneys understand what their clients value most out of the business relationship. There’s a tendency to assume firms are hired due to brand strength or price, but in reality some clients measure value in different ways. By way of anecdote, Mr. Corcoran pointed out that litigators often market themselves as “fierce bulldogs” in the courtroom, but some clients don’t measure wins, but rather how quickly they can decide to litigate versus settling. This knowledge can only be obtained by asking clients important questions.
- Solicit Feedback Often. Focus less on who’s at the top of the class and spend more time asking clients how they measure success. In other words, solicit client feedback regularly to gain critical knowledge about what the firm is doing right as well as understanding what areas can be improved upon. This knowledge can only help attorneys to become better business partners to their clients in the long run.
Simply assuming to know what clients want is a big mistake, said Mr. Corcoran.
“Not asking clients what they want is a fundamental misunderstanding of how to go the market.”
After all, “Understanding a client’s business is not a fad,” he added.