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January 31, 2009

Staffs that work.

See at Lawyers USA the article "Are You Overlooking Your Best Marketing Tool?" by lawyer-editor Sylvia Hsieh. It's about making your employees customer and client-centric. Which is, of course, easier said than done. Unfortunately, even at well-meaning businesses, the claim that "customer focus informs our every thought and action" doesn't last longer than a couple of days. It is quickly relegated to gimmicky feel-good website language at most companies, hotels, stores, shops, fruit stands and brothels on this planet.

The reason: Client service is very hard, and most businesses don't even know it. So they don't build it, they don't work hard at keeping and improving it, and they don't enforce it.

However, the Lawyers USA piece does hold out hope for building disciplined client service cultures at professional firms. It features: (1) some great advice from real pros, like Tom Kane and Ed Poll, (2) a few new but practical ideas, and (3) a creepy law partner who summarily fires associates who don't buy into client service 24/7. Some people. But Ms. Hsieh's article is fine instruction for managing partners, and new lawyers just starting out. Just a few mixed excerpts:

Written policies and training are a starting point.

This message should come across as early as the hiring process.

He [the partner] bluntly tells everyone in the firm the rules are not a gimmick and anyone who doesn't buy into them will be fired.

And he has followed through on that promise, such as when he fired an employee on the spot for refusing to take a phone call from a client over a weekend when both partners were out of town.

Employees at his firm know they will be evaluated based on their customer service skills and are encouraged to evaluate the partners on the same.

Another policy that [the partner interviewed] instituted at his firm to involve staff is that every person who works on a project for a client, including the paralegal and secretary, knows what the client is being billed.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzb├╝hel Desk) at January 31, 2009 11:06 PM


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