April 03, 2006

The 12 Rules Of Client Service.

Beginning November 19, 2005, I set out to write a rule-by-rule "12-step" program for lawyers, professionals and executives. The rules were derived from the "How To Practice Law" section of our firm's Practice Guide, written for associates and paralegals in 2000. Well, they are finally completed. The goal of the "What About Clients?" 12 rules is to align the interests of clients/customers and service providers to the fullest extent possible. The rules are not perfect, and can be improved. But this model works--if you work at it. If you follow these rules by building a disciplined culture at your shop where they are enforced and kept alive, your clients and firm both benefit as you go along. You'll see repeat business. You'll make money. Think of the rules as clientwork:

1. Represent only clients you like.

2. The client is the main event.

3. Make sure everyone in your firm knows the client is the main event.

4. Deliver legal work that changes the way clients think about lawyers.

5. Over-communicate: bombard, copy and confirm.

6. When you work, you are marketing.

7. Know the client.

8. Think like the client--help control costs.

9. Be there for clients--24/7.

10. Be accurate, thorough and timely--but not perfect.

11. Treat each co-worker like he or she is your best client.

12. Have fun.

J. Daniel Hull

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March 29, 2006

Rule 12: Have Fun.

Rule 12 (of 12): Have Fun.

See Rules 1-6 here and at these links 7,8, 9, 10 and 11.

If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong. Period.

Any questions?

While you are thinking, a confession: I loved college, and the liberal arts I studied there, because I am in love with ideas. Law school, however, was a different story. It came at me so fast I couldn't see any grand design, purpose or poetry. Except for the companionship of some truly unique and innovative classmates and profs, a girl from Shaker Heights named Amy, the drinking beer part, my administrative law and trade regs courses, some good part-time jobs, and somehow making Law Review, I hated law school with Olympian passions. It was stale and uncreative. I even quit--twice, for a week each time. I told anyone who would tolerate me for the entire 2 years and eight months and 3 days that I was an "artist" of some sort, imprisoned and daily being abused by talented but sadistic academics who were paid, and paid well, to abuse me. I envied my college friends at J-school at Columbia, in the Peace Corps, traveling in Europe or in Alaska or Florence writing unpublished novels. I felt stagnant. And of course by the time I graduated at the age of 25, I was unhappy, out of shape, addicted to coffee, cigarettes, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller and all the usual excesses of my generation--in short, a world-class ass.

So I moved to my birthplace Washington, D.C., where I would fit in. Sort of. I was so sure I would hate practicing law as much as law school that I deferred practicing law for nearly 3 years--in the form of being a hard-working, entertaining but equally difficult and troubled Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill. There I was once served with a small claims complaint for "back-rent" by an angry DC live-in ex-girlfriend in front of my amused U.S. Representative boss, another amused congressman and the not-so-amused but intrigued senior staff of the House Ways and Means Committee at the 96th Congress. But everything changes with time and a different lens for viewing. Had it not been for a friend from college who was happily clerking at the Supreme Court--who inadvertently shamed me one day in a conversation at the Tune Inn he has likely forgotten--I might never gone into private practice. So I left Capitol Hill and took a job in 1981 practicing law as one of DC's hundreds of "associates" in the branch office of a Midwestern law firm on 15th Street, N.W.

Everything--and I mean everything--changed for me. It was the same way new life sprung up inside me when the Duke undergraduate admissions people changed my life in 1971. Each day was different. I treated all the difficulties--and it was hard on me and mine--of being an associate as a challenge, and a even a privilege, and ever since then I have felt like it's an honor to do what lawyers do. In 1992, I started my own firm. I like the people I work with, the excitement of talented adversaries, a new project or case and the satisfaction of solving high-level problems for high-end clients, who I really like. And they even pay me for it. If you don't feel that way right away, give yourself time. If that fails, try another firm or another part of the profession. For many people, a different mentor, a new firm or a move to government or in-house counsel--even for a short while--can help you get your "sea legs" and make all the difference.

It's supposed to be fun. American law is extremely varied, elastic and constantly presenting new practice areas--especially in the larger cities. It has something for everyone. I am convinced of this. Please keep the faith and keep looking until you find it. Put another way, don't quit before the miracle occurs. It's there, and it's all inside you, in front of you. Simple--but still hard. It's a privilege and joy to do what lawyers do when they do it right.

And it really is fun.

So...any questions?

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March 10, 2006

Rule 11: Treat Each Co-Worker Like He or She Is Your Best Client.

Rule 11 of 12: Treat Each Co-Worker Like He or She Your Best Client. (See Rules 1-6 here and at the links Rules 7, 8, 9, and 10.)

People are every business's most important asset.

So here are three things about Rule 11--my personal new non-litigation "Rule 11":

First, in our workplaces, we need great people and we need to treat them with respect--not just buttering up. We need to give them prompt feedback--the good and the bad. Above all, we need them to grow and be happy.

Second, I have a short fuse. I am focused on what I am doing, and I am not always perfectly nice. To bad guys. To good guys. To people I admire, respect, like and love. And since 1981, I have had approximately 25 secretaries. Half of the 20 who didn't work out thought I was crazy, and the other half, well...I learned the hard way. Big Sally, one of my first assistants in the ASAE building on 15th and Eye Streets, once threw a Washington, DC yellow pages book at me that crashed into the wall a foot from my head, destroying several plants, another lawyer's dictaphone and cracking the frame on my "Hunter Thompson for Sheriff" wall poster which I hung on the wall outside my office (the partners were too straight to know what it really was). Both of us were to blame--but repairing the relationship took months. It should have never happened. Big Sally was not my first choice as an assistant, a partner hired her and assigned her to me, and I was a 32-year-old lawyer under enormous pressures to advance a large client's agenda and prove myself and my firm in the DC court systems--but she had her own distractions in life. And I needed her. Whatever I said to her in those 3 angry seconds about my dissatisfaction with her work or work ethic cost me a lot. And more recently, I had a huge "disconnect" problem with just about every "Generation X" hire--a thoughtful and talented part of the US workforce with strong and quite sane ideas about the place of work in their lives--who walked through our doors. But I am getting there. I have made progess. I am making progress.

Third, "Rule 11" is a client rule, too. Clients love to form partnerships with law, accounting, consulting firms and service providers of all manner with genuinely functional workplaces. They love work communities where the professionals are demanding but love what they do and solve problems together as a team of happy, focused people who stretch--but respect--one another. It's fun for them to watch, and fun to watch them watch you. Clients want to be part of that. Watching the "well-oiled" team is an image which sticks in the client mind. We have a GC with a transactional and mergers/acqusition background who regularly pops in on us from his office in another city during our trials for his company--both in the courtroom and conference room. He isn't just checking up on the progress of trial--he thinks it's damn fun to be around us. His eyes light up during strategy sessions. And you even sense he wants to pop up from his seat and take on a few witnesses himself...If a client can experience your people working together in that kind of focused but loose harmony, it's contaigious. They will want more. It's that last string in the major chord of a truly joyous place to work and grow.

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March 03, 2006

Rule 10: Be Accurate, Thorough and Timely--But Not Perfect.

Rule 10: Be Accurate, Thorough And Timely--But Not Perfect.

(See Rules 1-6 here and at the links Rules 7, 8 and 9.)

Practicing law is getting it right, saying it right and winning--all with a gun to your head. Being "accurate, thorough and timely" are qualities most of us had in the 6th grade, right? Back when everyone told us we were geniuses and destined for great things? Well, school's out--now it's about real rights, real duties, real money and personal freedom. That's a weight, and it should be.

Suddenly facts are everything--and the actual law less important than you ever imagined. In time you learn to research, think and put things together better and faster. You develop instincts. You learn there is really no boilerplate and no "cookie-cutter" work. You learn there are no "right answers"--but several approaches and solutions to any problem. You are being asked to pick one. But at first, and maybe for a few years, being accurate, thorough and on time is not easy to do.

"I Have Clients?!" One day, you start to visualize your clients as real companies and real people with real problems. These are your clients--not your parents or professors--and they are all different. You "feel their pain", and it's now yours, too.

Mistakes. If you work with the right mentors and senior people, they will allow you to make mistakes. You need freedom to make mistakes. You'll be reminded, however, not to let those mistakes out of the office. It's a balancing act, a hard one.

"Really bad days". You are expected to be a professional and put clients first on your worst damn day. A parent is sick, you are coming down with something yourself, your boyfriend is cheating on you, both of your boyfriends are cheating on you (and maybe with each other), your teenage kids "hate" you, and this morning you had to abandon that 12-year-old Honda you had in law school on the 14th Street Bridge. And minutes before your big afternoon meeting or court appearance, a GC or co-worker calls you with the worst possible development, something unexpected and beyond your control, in a project for your favorite client. You sag visibly, like an animal taking a bullet. And in five minutes, you have to be at your very best.

Bucking Up, Using Fear. And while you can't work in a state of constant worry, fear and paralysis, talking yourself into heroics, getting a little paranoid and even embracing a little fear won't hurt you, and may even help. You are being paid both (1) to be accurate, thorough, timely and (2) to just plain "not screw up".

“Thorough” means "anticipating", too. What makes you really good in a few years is being able to "see the future" and spot a ripple effect in a flash. To take a small example, if your client is in an active dispute with the government or on the brink of a full-blown litigation with a competitor, the client's and many of your own letters and e-mails aren't just letters and e-mails. Whoa, they are potential exhibits, too. They can be used for you or against you. So they need to be written advisedly and clearly so that they advance your position and so that a judge, jury or someone 5 years from now can look at it cold and figure out what's going on. No "talking to yourself" here; think "future unintended consequences" when you think and write.

"But Not Perfect." Not talking about mistakes here. I refer to the paralysis of high standards. I know something about the second part of Rule 10--because I tended to violate it when I was younger. And I still want to. Perfectionism is the Great Destroyer of Great Young Associates. Don't go there. Don't be so stiff and scared you can't even turn anything in because you want it "perfect" and you keep asking other lawyers and courts for extensions. It's not school, and it's no longer about you. Think instead about Rule 8: Think Like The Client--and Help Control Costs. Balance efficiency with "being perfect", and err on the side of holding down costs. If a client or senior lawyer in your firm wants your work to be "perfect", and for you to charge for it, believe me, they will let you know.

Finally, and I almost forgot: always use the Blue Book/Maroon Book for your citations. No one gets a pass on that one.

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February 27, 2006

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

(See the first 8 rules: 1-6 here, 7 here and 8 here.)

Get used to it. We attorneys, accountants and legions of other professionals with corporate clients--at big firms, boutiques or solos--are no longer royalty. In the future, "returning telephone calls promptly", "keeping your client informed" (like those two items should ever have been a big deal!), blackberries and having effective voice message and paging systems will not be nearly enough--if it ever were enough. Color all that barely adequate. Get a new standard--a new wave-length with your clients and customers. I posted about this recently in "Being There: Availability".

Family will always come first. Rest, time and re-bonding with family and friends is important to nurturing body, mind, soul and spirit. Vacations are important, too. We need all that recharging, and we need lots of it. But we now live in a world (1) that never sleeps, (2) in which delivering services based on problem-solving, know-how and judgment is as important as mass-producing, marketing and distributing widgets, and (3) where competition for good clients--amongst accountants, actuaries, consultants, stockbrokers, lawyers, you name it--is getting stiffer. In the next decade, and even for high-end clients, more and more "cookie cutter" and fungible services will be outsourced and done by very smart and far more cost-effective workers and professionals in Bangalore, Taipei or Mexico City. Just wait. What's left over will be specialty items and things clients need professionals and specialists to do at their highest levels of thinking and problem-solving.

Compete on service. Compete using your best skills delivered with superior service. If you really want "clients for life", and the rewards promised in all those happy themes you see on the shelves of the business sections of Borders and Barnes & Noble, consider being there 24/7--and telling your clients that you already are. No--it won't kill you, diminish your health, ruin your marriage or drive your employees away. Just let your clients know that you are totally accessible--no client worth keeping will abuse the privilege--and then show them. As a practical matter, you can assign two people (as my firm does) to be abreast of each client matter, no matter how small, and never charge for the overlap (it works). You can actively jockey to become the "emergency go-to" provider when a client needs to get something addressed immediately simply by doing the day-to-day work you already have for that client with uncommon enthusiasm and ahead of schedule. How you show them and how you do it is up to you. In order for most of us to be competitive, we have to get into the habit of "being there"--that means both quality time and any time. Good clients deserve this.

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February 11, 2006

Rule Eight: Think Like the Client--Help Control Costs.

Rule Eight: Think Like The Client--Help Control Costs. (See the first 7 rules 1-6 here and 7 here).

Ask an associate lawyer or paralegal what a "profit" is. You will get two kinds of answers. Both answers are "correct" but neither of them helps anyone in your firm think like the client. The answers will be something like this. (1) "A profit is money remaining after deducting costs from receipts." This is the correct young transactional/tax lawyer answer. Or (2) "it's money left over at the end of the hunt." This is the correct fire-breathing young litigator answer.

The right answer?

A profit is a reward for being efficient. And until a lawyer, paralegal or staffer gets that, she or he will never know how a client--or a law firm partner--thinks.

Rule 8 is really simple. Watch and minimize costs and show the client that you are interested in doing that. Go beyond just avoiding wasteful spending, and think of the client's business as yours. Factor cost (including fees!) into everything you think, say and do. Let the client know that you know that holding down costs is good for both the client and your law firm. You want repeat clients, and a maximum of steady income streams, so let clients know you really care about saving it money because of just that: you want to keep costs down so the client will stay with the firm in the long-term.

Most clients not only get this but appreciate it greatly in time. Two years ago, at the beginning of a fairly intense but short-term lobbying project in DC for a new client (a high-tech company with a fabulous product), I told the client's CEO--by the way, she was brilliant, talented and rich but surprisingly unsophisticated on the use of lawyers--that she had three options on legal paths she could take on the project, and that I wanted her to use the least expensive one on legal fees. She actually said: "Dan, you know we really like you guys. But your goal has got to be to make as many thousands of dollars you can a month from this project. Why a cheap avenue for me that involves fewer lawyer hours? Why should I take this seriously?" My answer: "Because whether you sell this company or not, we want to represent it or whatever company you next develop on a long term basis, and we would rather work for you for years and years than just a few months."

That made sense to her. Everyone in our shop needs (1) to think in terms of holding down client costs--attorney fees and out-of-pocket expenses--at every step and every moment of a client project, (2) to know why, and (3) to be prepared to explain that to the client.

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January 24, 2006

Rule Seven: Know the Client.

Rule Seven: Know the Client.

The "12 Rules of Client Service" I have been posting one-by-one starting on November 19 appear in a booklet Julie McGuire and I prepared internally 5 years ago for associates and non-lawyer staff. We just call it Hull McGuire Practice Guide* (*or how to become a productive associate or paralegal). In the Guide, we call the same rules "Blackletter Rules for Practicing Law". The idea is that each of the twelve overall practice rules harks back to the idea that the client comes first. Clients, clients, clients. For us, that is practicing law. Except for some rewording, the 2 sets of rules are the substantially the same. The first six rules are reproduced here.

Several lawyer-bloggers I respect have posted--and in some very eloquent and interesting ways--on the idea of Rule 7, really knowing the client and its culture. I think they say it all. See Tom Kane, Patrick Lamb, Tom Collins and Arnie Herz. Some of the discussion lately was triggered by the nerve jangling report of complaints of some GCs at a Fulton County, Georgia CLE conference in early December 2005. I've chimed in on that, too--here and here.

The client, it seems, actually wants you to know him, her or it. Take time out to learn the stock price, industry, day-to-day culture, players and overall goals of your client. Visit their offices and plants. Do it free of charge. I think associates in particular need to develop the habit of finding out about and keeping up with clients and their trials and tribulations in and out of the areas you are working in. Learn about your client--and keep learning about it. Devise a system to keep abreast.

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January 06, 2006

"What About Clients?" Rules--So Far.

Here are the first 6 rules, and "commentary", posted between November 19 and January 5. Just 6 more to go. When all twelve are done, they will represent what I know about servicing clients. I am grateful for the insightful commments, posts or e-mails I've received in reaction to these since November 19. Often they made me re-think things--and it's bracing to know others carefully think about customer service. Hey, a lot of people providing services just don't:

1. Represent only clients you like.

2. The client is the main event.

3. Make sure everyone in your firm knows the client is the main event.

4. Deliver legal work that changes the way clients think about lawyers.

5. Over-communicate: bombard, copy and confirm.

6. When you work, you are marketing.

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January 05, 2006

Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing.

Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing.

Rule Six is more a truth to be kept in mind than a "rule." This is where the needs of clients and their lawyers come together. It's about value to both. But you can't forget this one. Keeping or not keeping in mind the germ of Rule Six--that "when you work, you are marketing"--is the difference between having a financially healthy practice and having to close your doors.

Repeating Clients. We as lawyers are always marketing when we work. Clients and customers need and want their lawyers, CPAs, doctors, auto mechanics, store clerks and bank tellers to do good if not first-rate work. Professionals and other vendors of all manner rely on pleasing the customer in order to get more work. If you rely on or shoot for repeat business, good work--which includes the quality of communication and follow-up while you are doing it--drives whether you get more of that type of work or, even better, make inroads toward doing other types of work. (For example, my firm often starts work for a client in the corporate tax or environmental area--but we are always looking to expand our activity for that client to, say, employment practices, commercial litigation and/or international work.)

One-Night Stands. If, on the other hand, your practice is more along the line of "one-night stands"--i.e., divorce or criminal work where you generally serve the client once for a discrete time period--use your good work and service to obtain word-of-mouth referrals. See Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 best-seller The Tipping Point for inspiration on scores of good ideas on creating word-of-mouth dynamics. If you are not sure whether a satisfied client will refer work, just ask her or him to do that.

So we are always marketing--and in doing that constantly sending to clients barrages of small but powerful ads. The ads range from "don't hire us again" to "we want to keep your business--and get more of it". Pretty simple. But it's apparently not all that intuitive to many of us in the legal profession. I am amazed at how long it takes us to learn it. For my money, "Rule Six" is the best single thing you could ever tell a lawyer starting out. And, hey, it's good for both clients and their firms.

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December 27, 2005

Rule Five: "Over-Communicate": Bombard, Copy and Confirm

Rule Five: "Over-Communicate": Bombard, Copy and Confirm

I am indebted to Jay Foonberg for the inspiration for Rule 5--both "bombarding" and the idea of keeping clients continuously informed. Nearly all of my better thoughts about practice management are influenced by Jay Foonberg.

The notion of "bombarding" clients with paper and information does have obvious exceptions. For instance, you work with a GC who trusts you and wants you to leave her alone. She doesn't want you to copy her on every transmittal letter or e-mail. Fair enough. Just be 100% sure you know what she wants and doesn't want. But aside from that, this is a "can't miss" rule--and I am amazed that many good lawyers express surprise that my firm informs the client of everything at each step of the way, and copies our clients on everything.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:36 PM | Comments (3)

December 12, 2005

Rule Four: Deliver Legal Work That Change the Way Clients Think About Lawyers

Rule Four: Deliver Legal Work That Changes the Way Clients Think About Lawyers.

This rule, like Rule One, is not so intuitive. But it's the most challenging. The "under-promise but over-deliver" and "exceed customer expectations" notion of keeping good clients is a great idea. But I just don't think it works that well for lawyers. I think that clients, rightly or wrongly, and whether or not they are even aware of it, in fact have low expectations of lawyers in the first place. For two reasons:

A. Traditional Pervasive Distrust of Lawyers (General--Deserved & Undeserved)

There is a pervasive (let's face it, ancient) cynicism and suspicion about lawyers which even our most loyal and valued clients carry around with them. Some of it is unavoidable and not our fault. It's based on everything from literature, TV, movies and lawyer jokes to a genuine misunderstanding of what lawyers must do to perform well. It's deeply rooted in world culture.

B. Real Experiences-Based Distrust of Lawyers (Specific--Deserved)

But most of the distrust is our fault because either (1) our substantive professional services are merely "adequate" and/or delivered without passion or real caring--clients can sense that--or (2) we view clients almost as adversaries (they joke about us; we joke about them), which gets communicated to clients in every step of our work for them. See The First Post.

Let's not kid ourselves. Why "try to exceed expectations" when the overall lawyer standard is perceived as low to mediocre? If your clients are all Fortune 500 stand-outs, and the GCs' seems to love you and your firm, is that because your service delivery is so good--or because other lawyers they use are so "bad" on service? Why have a low standard, or one that merely makes you look incrementally more responsive and on top of things than the boutique on the next floor up? Why not overhaul and re-create the whole game?

If you read the better writers on services, like Harry Beckwith in Selling The Invisible, you pick up on this simple idea: Rather than "under-promise/over-deliver", which is essentially job specific, why not change the way people think of lawyers generally and what they can expect from them generally? Get good clients--those clients you like and want--to keep coming back to you by communicating in all aspects of your work that you care deeply about your lawyering for them, you want to serve their interests on an ongoing basis and that it's a privilege to be their lawyer. Show them you fit no lawyer mold.

Oh, yeah. One catch--and the hardest part: it's got to be true.

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December 07, 2005

The Client's "Professionalism" Rules For Litigation

1. We, your client, come first. Be nice, be professional--but if in doubt, in litigation, use the procedural rules. If you feel you know the lawyers you are dealing with, we will follow your advice and instincts. If you are in doubt about the opposing lawyers, or if it might compromise us to deviate from the formal procedural rules, please stay close to those rules. Frankly, we have been in business long enough to know that practitioners in your city are pretty much like lawyers in New York City, Sioux City or anywhere else. We know that some lawyers at times transform zeal, advocacy and trying to serve the client into over-lawyering, discovery abuse and outright dishonesty. On rare occasions, we have even seen opposing counsel hide a document, or get a witness to lie. It happens. So if you are unclear about how to respond to such tactics, use the rules.

2. If you can develop an amicable working relationship with opposing counsel, please do so. If you can do this, it will save us time, money and goodwill. This is also true of your relationship with government attorneys who represent administrative agencies in regulatory matters.

3. Please move this matter along. At first, please use the deadlines in the procedural rules. If someone asks you for a two-week extension in discovery, and you believe all he or she needs is an extra week to produce the information or witness requested, tell opposing counsel that a week is enough time. (We will consider filing a motion to compel production.) We have an interest in resolving this matter without more delays.

4. Be timely and substantive; practice "clean hands." Try to provide timely and good responses to opposing counsel's discovery requests and other deadlines. Do this whether or not opposing counsel does it.

5. If you have, or would like to have, a personal relationship with opposing counsel, that's fine, but don't let the relationship hurt us--the client. We don't care as much as you do about your maintaining or developing collegiality with other lawyers in your jurisdiction; in fact, we could not care less.

6. If opposing counsel shows animosity toward you for following the procedural rules and keeping things moving, that is tough. We hired you to represent us. We would like you to get this done. As your client, we seldom think that aggressiveness and persistence are unprofessional.

7. Conduct your discussions with opposing counsel as if we were listening. No, this does not mean we want you to posture, or fight tooth-and-nail over every point. However, if it's in our interest to reduce a request for an extension of time from 45 days to 15 days, please do so. If we are the plaintiff in commercial litigation, we would like to secure our remedies as soon as possible. When we are the defendant, we would like you to obtain information about the plaintiff's case as soon as you can, determine our exposure and resolve it.

8. If you have followed these rules and opposing counsel starts making noises about professionalism and courtesy, please refer to Rule No. 1. Occasionally, a lawyer may attempt to turn professionalism into a sword. This is nonsense. If you have followed the rules, even aggressively, and opposing counsel whines hardball tactics, you are doing a good job for us. Don't let your adversary turn your sticking to the rules on our behalf into a red herring. We come first.

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December 05, 2005

Rule Three: Ensure Everyone Knows That The Client Is The Main Event

Rule Three: Ensure That Everyone In Your Firm Knows That The Client Is the Main Event.

Conveying what you are doing for clients above and beyond what other firms may offer, and how you will accomplish that, needs to be transmittted clearly to everyone in your firm: from the big picture--what does the law firm do, who are the clients, what do the clients do?--down to the smallest detail--in what city is the general counsel's office, who works with the GC on that project, does she like e-mails or phone calls for short-answer projects? One way to start this process with a new employee is by having her or him read a short, amusingly-written confidential "Practice Guide" (with almost no procedures or "rules") on the firm's overall goals, your firm's service vision, client descriptions and genuinely useful ways to work--before the first day of work. Everyone must know it's about clients.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Rule Two: The Client Is The Main Event. "The Big Obvious."

Rule Two: The Client is the Main Event.

This one, I think, is more intuitive. Rule One--the November 19 post Represent Only Clients You Like--struck 3 people I received e-mails from as impractical if not counter-intuitive. That's okay, but for now let's keep that as Rule One. Rule Two, that the client is everything, and the main event, makes almost too much sense. We all know that clients pay our fees, give us interesting work, and that we have professional, financial and fiduciary duties to clients. We tell clients they are "everything" to us. But is it true? Is the notion that the client is the main deal chiefly something we eagerly tell our clients (and ourselves) while we pitch for work?

My sense is that lawyers, except on a strictly marketing and PR level, from time to time, and even with the best clients, forget that and won't create what quality improvement guru W. Edwards Deming years ago called a "constancy of purpose" about true service. So Rule Two becomes the obvious "yeah-of-course-our-firm-knows/does that!" rule that may get more lip service than actual delivery in all the details of our work for clients. My question for now is this: If client (or customer) "primacy" were really the organizing principle for everything we do, isn't that in our interest, too? Doesn't that mean that the work is better, law firm staff and attorneys are pulling in the same direction, morale is good, we spend less time and money on marketing, we keep good clients and we attract new ones?

And if we really get it, are really we doing it?

Posted by JD Hull at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Rule One: Represent Only Clients You Like

Rule One: Represent Only Clients You Like.

As a threshold matter, you cannot deliver true service to a client unless you and your firm "like" your client--and I mean like the client a lot. In the case of companies, "client" here means GCs, clients reps and individual client cultures--or the company's personality. Practicing law the right way and with enthusiasm is hard enough. And as a lawyer, you owe some of the highest personal, professional and business duties imaginable to your clients. If you don't like him, her or it, you should chuck him, her or it--as soon as you ethically and practically can. You will not do good work very long for a client or customer you do not like. If you want to read more, see the August 26 post "What If You Only Represented Clients You Actually Liked?"

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