Insightful Advice: A Law Firm Strategy to Maximize Client Value


About 10 years ago, three siblings from my extended family decided to add their older brother, Joe, to their widowed and aging mother’s brokerage account. It seemed like the most pragmatic solution to helping manage their mother’s finances, so they accepted Joe to add. A few years later, their new financial advisor told them, “You know having your brother Joe in the brokerage account means all the money will go to him when your mother dies. That one sentence was the sum of the tips.

The new advisor was right and could quote the rules: The money in the joint account would legally transfer to Joe when their mother died – but the advice was incomplete, omitting important facts and not meeting the family’s needs. The mother of the sons was alone and in a different part of the country, and the caregivers who were supposed to help her had taken advantage of her in the past and had become her “friends”. More importantly, she had a gambling problem; a “friend” had already taken her to a casino where she had lost $ 9,000 in one evening.

Siblings needed more comprehensive advice from their financial advisor that more fully met their needs and provided visibility into their mother’s finances. Although their solution was not perfect, the siblings understood that “the money would go to Joe” and knew they could get away with it because they trusted each other. But the financial advisor simply stuck to technical advice, missing out on the opportunity to help clients find a better solution to meet their needs.

Needless to say, the family found another financial advisor who was able to set up a trust and work with a real estate expert to resolve the issues.

The above story illustrates a problem that is surfacing in a number of professions – including legal services – that provide advice, expertise and advice. Professional management consultants can make the mistake of providing technically correct advice but ignoring a client’s needs and desired outcomes. And at a time when the gaps continue to widen between performance of law firms and expectations of corporate legal departments, it is more important than ever for law firms to find other ways to close this gap and deliver the most value to their clients.

There are many factors that go into how a trusted advisor engages a client, including emotional intelligence and the ability to handle the nuances of complex engagements and difficult client situations. Here are three ways that law firms and aspiring lawyers can learn these skills, deliver better results, and increase client satisfaction.

Deepen your understanding of a client’s business.

Ask questions and understand your customer. What is their business strategy? Key operational initiatives? What is their operational footprint and which laws are most relevant to them based on where they operate? What does success mean to your client?

Law firms are encouraged to “look around the corner” and provide advice on regulatory changes that may impact their clients. Even with a limited budget for an engagement, a savvy lawyer can relate pure legal advice to the client’s business needs. This may not have been included in the engagement, but by better understanding a customer’s business – including the context of an engagement with them – you can gain permission to go further or ask. questions that help a client understand how to use your advice in the context of their business to get better results.

Perhaps you are an associate working on a new engagement. Be strategic and do your homework. When opportunities arise, ask your partner for more information or to tell a story about the customer. If you can learn as much as possible about your key customers, you will be better able to help them and your partner.

Understand what other advice has been provided.

I have heard of situations in other areas of consulting where part of a company provided advice that was inconsistent with advice provided to other clients (or even the same client). A strong knowledge management process can help minimize this.

You can leverage your knowledge management system by ensuring that information about past engagements and commitments is captured in the system to help provide more context and history that can inform future advice. This best practice has less to do with the technology itself and more to do with how you use it to capture information and then balance customer privacy with the “need to know”.

As an associate, you can become an expert in your company’s knowledge management system. If you have permission, set alerts and monitor news about your most important customers and, where possible, seek to develop relationships with those who can help you learn more about your customers and under. other perspectives.

Consider scenarios when giving advice.

Complying with laws and regulations can be difficult. When providing advice, it can be helpful to frame the advice in the context of the business and use that context to review alternatives. This can help stimulate thinking and guide clients to better assess how to comply.

To illustrate, consider the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was designed to protect the privacy of European citizens and their data. The GDPR was passed in 2016, but was only applicable on May 25, 2018. IT and management consultants, accounting firms and law firms around the world were doing business, as the vast majority of companies affected were very likely not to be prepared to comply with the regulations. on day 1.

I have heard crazy advice that lacked context regarding the likelihood of sanctions and enforcement. Some companies have diverted their attention from very important data security tasks that could have been more important and material than the risk of non-compliance on Day 1 for the GDPR. On the other hand, some organizations took advantage of the GDPR problem to upgrade the infrastructure and processes that solved more than GDPR.

The point is, having a discussion about the alternatives and likely outcomes of the counseling can help a client make a more informed decision that may benefit them beyond solving the problem in question.

The relationship between clients and law firms is evolving and clients are seeking more and more external advice every day. Law firms can strengthen their relationships and help drive better results that increase client satisfaction by looking for higher value ways to contextualize the advice they provide. Technological tools can play a vital role, but the processes for deploying these solutions may be more important than the technology itself. And just like the financial advisor who has advised siblings on how to deal with the complexities of their elderly mother’s situation, law firms and attorneys have the opportunity to tailor their advice by gaining a better understanding of the issues. needs of their customers. Helping a client understand the big picture can ultimately help them comply with the law, meet their business goals, and increase client confidence in your firm to ensure a beneficial long-term relationship. in the future.

Ken Crutchfield is vice president and general manager of legal markets at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory US, a leading provider of information, business intelligence, regulatory and legal workflow solutions. Ken has over three decades of experience as a leader in IT and software solutions in all industries. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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