Lawyer-down. Face the music. Ask for feedback.

Simone Hughes
Make it Count
Lawyers are trained to be the voice of authority. Personal development means asking for feedback.

This month’s column moves forward with the last step in the marketing strategic approach: evaluation.  

So you’ve just completed a matter/deal/suit and you’ve submitted the last invoice to your client. What do you do next?
•    nothing;
•    ask your client if there’s anything else you can help them with;
•    send a thank-you card;
•    invite your client to a debriefing, post-mortem session with you;
•    have your practice group leader, more senior lawyer (not associated with the matter), or marketer/business developer conduct a client feedback audit; and/or
•    party (with or without the client).

A good marketer will say, “It depends.” (I very much dislike marketers who spew out solutions without understanding your particular situation. Red alert to you — bad marketers spew out solutions and sound like the voices of authority themselves!)

While sometimes, doing nothing or partying is the answer, most of the time you need to think about your, and your firm’s, long-term position. The legal industry is a tough world. A lot of it is project-based and one-off, and once complete you’re out there fighting for the next piece of work.

The ideal situation is retainer/annuity-style work you can rely on. The trick is how to convert project-based work to retainer-style work and reap the benefits of predictable revenue.

You may think this is an impossible gig. That once project work, always project work. I have lived the reality that project-based work can be transformed into retainer-style work and it’s all about creating a relationship with your clients.

The way to do that with project-based work is to create continuity between the projects. A catalyst to that continuity is performance evaluation — feedback!

No one likes to hear bad news, especially lawyers. But did you know correcting a bad situation actually improves a relationship? When I was in financial services with the luxury of huge (six- and seven-figure) research budgets, we analyzed the impact of things that go wrong in relationships and how the remedies impact retention and profitability.

One might mistakenly think if a client relationship has had no hiccups everything is wonderful and you can expect a long-term flow of matters. Interestingly enough, retention and the prospect of profit are higher if something bad happens in the relationship and you ask for feedback and correct the situation. Research has shown you are more tightly bound to your client than if nothing untoward ever happened.

The moral of this story is feedback not only gives you professional development coaching, it also reveals things you may not have ever thought about — from the client perspective.

Feedback, and acting on it, creates a relationship bond that will help you bridge matters together and give you continuity of work with clients. Feedback makes us better people in humbling us and keeping us in touch with reality. Feedback gives us the upper hand against the competition because they probably aren’t doing it and clients really appreciate it. Feedback gives you competitive intelligence. Feedback makes us better people. Feedback leads to genuine relationships and long-term value.

Lawyer-down, face the music, and ask for feedback.

Now you’re armed with a basic approach to developing your profile and portfolio:
•    research
•    plan
•    do, and
•    evaluate

I will take some of my own advice and ask you for feedback. Please e-mail me at shughes@fieldlaw.com if you have found my columns of particular value to you. And, please ask me questions so that I can make this column as relevant as possible. Ask Simone today! No question is trivial. If you have it — many others probably do as well. How can I help guide you to more profitable, productive and personally rewarding career by applying marketing, public relations and business development to your practices? How can I help demystify these functions and provide you with efficient and effective tips and tricks so that you can focus on what you signed up for — to help people and businesses reduce their legal challenges so they can focus on themselves and their businesses? Ask Simone today!

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