Are Your Clients Seeing Value?aderantuser
Young lawyers are often advised to “project value” when dealing with clients. More specifically, when interacting with clients either directly or through billing statements, lawyers should make sure that clients understand the purpose of the work conducted and why it’s important. While this message is not new, the importance of defining value in the client relationship has never been greater.
A recent issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today found a legal industry that is “focused as never before on one single—but not simple—concept: value. The global financial crisis, which led to the Great Recession, prompted corporate America to evaluate its legal expenses, to question the value of its legal counsel, to push back on rates and fee arrangements, and to target its legal spend for cost reduction. In-house counsel suddenly inherited the power position: the legal industry became a buyer’s market.”
Various legal commentators have been examining the value question, with many referencing Association of Corporate Counsel’s all-encompassing 51 Practical Ways for Law Firms to Add Value. Under Client Service and Value, for example, the ACC recommends that firms “Educate the attorneys and staff on how they can add value at the practice group and individual level, including training, assisting with value-based fee structures, developing technology tools and other client-centric programs. Consider developing a value taskforce to assist with this effort.” They also suggest using a focus group of clients to create client service standards for the firm.
Lawyers may also need to reexamine their traditional notions of value. A recent post in the Legal Marketing Blog argued that simply providing a legal product to your clients in no longer enough. The client needs to feel that you have provided something extra, or surprised them with something useful they didn’t expect. A piece titled How to Identify and Communicate Your Value to Clients gave the following four simple steps for firms to improve their value proposition to clients:
- Conduct Self Analysis
- Seek External Feedback from Peers, Referral Sources and Clients
- Develop Your Value Proposition
- Sell it! Communicate and Demonstrate Your Value
Even though lawyers have always known that clients need to see and appreciate the value of their work, clients now have much more leverage to demand it. Firms should be proactive in engaging clients on the value question, and take steps to improve their perceived value before the question gets asked. During the process, firms will also gain a greater understanding of exactly how their clients view both the relationship and the provided legal services. In other words, there’s real value in knowing what your customers are thinking about value!