Benefits of
Clientcentric Research

Benefits for your Firm

Client Perceptions...

Remind clients your firm exists
Sending a questionnaire to clients who you haven't heard from for a period of time
is an excellent way of reminding them that you are still 'their' attorney and that you
are available for questions, consultations or any other reason.

Reestablishes personal contact
Individualized request letters reinforce relationships with clients who have lost contact
with the firm. For example, "Dear Bob, Our Firm is rededicating itself to providing
quality services to our clients and your input in the process would be most helpful..."

Reminds clients of your firm's strengths
The request letter can be drafted to reinforce certain firm attributes in the mind of
the client, such as our firm's commitment to quality or the fact that your firm values
their opinion. The request letter can also introduce the client to other aspects of the
firm's practice development plans. For example, "As part of our commitment to
serve the changing needs of our small business clients, we..."

Gathers insight into what your clients find dissatisfying
In a competitive environment where other practitioners are more than willing to take
over for you, little things mean a lot. They can't be dealt with if they are not understood.

Identifies what your clients see as your firm's strong points
It is just as important to understand what is seen as your strengths as to understand
what is seen as a weakness. Practice development is a program of building on the positive.

Gathers input from the non-vocal majority
The majority of clients do not complain about small discrepancies between what they want,
or feel they need, and the service your firm provides. Likewise, they often do not reinforce
those aspects of our services that have real meaning and importance to them.
But they all have opinions and they all make recommendations to others.

Lets you know what keeps your best clients coming back
The goal is to have more 'best' clients. Clients who see your firm as a valuable
part of their life and business. These are clients who recommend you to others,
not to do you a favor, but to do a favor for the person in need of your services.

Gathers positive, if unintentional, input on fees
What we'll call 'fee felicity' is a witches brew of expectation and satisfaction.
Often a firm must consider its fee structure without effective input from clients.
While they all say they want lower fees, the economic reality of law practice is
a bit different. A survey can rank client's 'fee felicity' so as to allow the firm to
know where it can raise fees and where it should hold the line.

Helps you understand what messages you and the other principles of the firm have been giving clients in spite of yourselves
We tend to judge ourselves by professional standards, and our clients judge us by
the standards important to them. A survey can allow them to tell us things they think
and fed about us that we could learn in no other way; things that make a big
difference in the firm's professional future.

Office Administration...

Forms an evaluation factor that unifies the staff
If client satisfaction with overall staff is emphasized, and those behaviors that
contribute to client satisfaction are made known, those factors (pleasant telephone
presentation, quick call backs, etc.) become a common focus.

Evaluates support staff based on client perception and feedback
As practitioners run faster and faster just to stay in place, support staff has more
collateral as well as substantive contact with clients. Surveys can measure the
satisfaction produced by these contacts.

Rewards support staff based on something that won't encourage intraoffice politics
Many factors contribute to the evaluation of staff, but making those who pay the
fees happy ranks near the top. By adding a client satisfaction factor to the staff
evaluation and compensation review process, a factor with direct impact on the
firm's bottom line, and its future, is emphasized.

Provides a basis for the tough decisions
For the likely balance of this legal generation, most of the attorneys are men and
most of the support staff aren't. In this era of age and sex discrimination allegations,
staffing changes supported by a client centered, Independently analyzed reason is
not only a good idea, it is fair to all concerned.

Unifies the partners
There are many firms where in areas of contention such as "Do we, or do we not,
advertise for divorce work on the radio" or "Should we emphasize intellectual property
law in our business newsletter?" often the status quo prevails because the log jam can't
be broken. Research provides fresh input from the people who pay the fees.

Practice Development...

Establishes a baseline for practice development measurement
Practice development plans needs a baseline to make progress measurements meaningful.
Where the firm wishes to strengthen its practice in specific areas of the law, it must
understand what image it has given to its past clients in that area.

Identifies specific action points
Replace a nebulous goal such as, "Let's all work harder to make clients happier" with
a concrete objective such as, "Lets get the clients perceived telephone response time
down to two hours."

Establishes positive goals
Surveys can be created to provide specific numerical rankings on certain attributes.
This allows the firm to set improvement goals for individuals or groups that have a
direct relationship to the firm's success.

Establishes a starting point for firm organization or reorganization
Retirements and other career moves often leave the firm looking for a way to
reorganize itself. Research provides baseline data, putting the process on a
sound empirical foundation.

Provides a focus for team building
The efficiency that will provide for the firm's future in everyone working together.
Easy to say, sometimes tough to do. Research starts with getting everyone to
focus on the same goal at the same time. It puts everyone on the same page
of the game plan.

Gathers objective information to resolve issues
Firmly held divergent beliefs, usually in good faith, have blocked many a plan.
Objective research has no part of the self-fulfilling prophecies that underlie
self-attempted or anecdotal research. The results are fair, accurate and repeatable.

Gathers objective feedback for staff training
If clients rate an individual's performance poorly, "ya, but" arguments lose the ability
to shield the individual from the realization that improvement is necessary.

Gains insight into which associates are going to become rainmakers
The ability to satisfy clients was thought of as a gift. Now we know it is a learned art.
With the first client they meet, associates have an impact on the future of the firm.
Clients are often hesitant to criticize a new attorney; trying to do the young attorney
a favor while bad habits get chiseled in stone.

Turns associates into rainmakers while not turning them into competitors
An associate development program that includes client satisfaction can go a long
way toward convincing the promising young attorney that a sound future lies in
staying with the firm. Good client skills are developed because of the firm,
not in spite of it.

Provides perspective about future merger partners or employees
When you consider linking up with another practitioner or firm, it is important to
know as much about them as possible. What their clients can tell you, just as what
your clients can tell them, is of major consequence in assuring that the merger will
be successful. The research gives you an additional perspective permitting greater
personal as well as professional, compatibility.

Marketing...

Establishes a baseline for cross client education
In a firm that provides services in different areas of the law, clients who have received
services from one member in one area of the law, such as divorce, may not 'realize'
that the firm has attorneys who are expert in other areas, such as personal injury.
Even where the client is satisfied with the service received, the client does not support
the firm's development by not recommending the firm to others with perceived personal
injury needs simply due to lack of awareness.

Measures the effect of your competitors' advertising
Has the incessant barrage of media commercials given your clients the notion that in the
event they, or someone they know, has an accident or injury, that they 'need' a Personal
Injury Specialist?

Measures the effect of your advertising
If your firm has a media program, modest or substantial, it impacts those who know you
as well as those who don't. Understanding that impact is critical to firm development.

Measures the effectiveness of your advertising consultant
Even the most ethical ad person tends to see their work through rose colored glasses.
What benefits your firm is an analysis of how the people who pay your fees see your
program.

Adds substance to your marketing
Look at the yellow pages, every firm with an ad is telling potential clients some
conclusion they would like the potential client to reach. Research allows your firm
to discover something that adds substance to what your ads tell folks about the firm.

Fine tunes your market or practice development efforts.
A serious amount of resources, both time and money, must be invested in a practice
development program to make it successful. The efficiency improvements provided
by competently done research make the dollars go further and the results arrive quicker.

Professionalism...

Enhances (the image of) your firm's professionalism
The word 'professionalism' has many different meanings, but they all deal with the image
of how a lawyer should look and act. Every measure of the positive attributes of the legal
profession -- the attributes of 'professionalism' -- emphasizes elements of competence,
caring, and leadership. Asking, rather than waiting to be told, not only enhances
professionalism, but improves the image of professionalism as well.

Creates a stronger firm through growth
When you understand how clients see your firm, you are in a better position to make sure
that future changes and additions improve quality, professionalism and profitability;
not just size.

Measures the firm's perceived cohesiveness.
Does the client see the firm as a unified group or a gathering of single attorneys?
This can have a direct link to the perception of the strength of the legal service provider.

Ethics ...

Surveying our clients is ethical
Wisconsin's Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility has reviewed our written
Clientcentricsm Research Methodology and found that it is consistent with the
Code of Professional Responsibility.

Gathering information on client wants, needs and perceptions is ethical.
The Code of Professional Responsibility requires that attorneys obtain "consent
after full disclosure" in a number of situations. For both the individual practitioner
and the firm, seeing their practice from the client's point of view allows more effective
communications, more effective full disclosure.

Full disclosure is an ethical duty.
Rule1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct provides in part, that
"a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and
promptly comply with reasonable requests for information." Understanding how
clients see you, your firm and the profession helps you present the information
they are entitled to in a manner they are more likely to understand.

Malpractice....

Client communications are "effective" when they are from the client's perspective.
There seems to be a trend, shown in such cases as Togstad v. Otto, Miller & Keefe,
291 N.W. 2d 686 (Minn. 1980) that define reasonable and effective communications
from the client's perspective. Firms are becoming responsible for not only what their
attorneys say, but what the client hears.

Listening skills can keep an attorney from becoming the kind of lawyer clients want to sue. "Effective, timely, responsive and courteous communication dramatically reduces the risk
of being sued for malpractice." "An Attorney who handles hundred of cases must remember
that to a client, there is only one case the attorney is handling -- his or her own. It is
important for the attorney to maintain good client relationships by showing a caring attitude."
-CNA Lawyers Professional Responsibility Program, p. CR-7

Firm Mergers...

When considering bring together two firms, or adding part of another firm to yours,
it is a good idea to gather information from the clients of those who are going to
change the makeup of your firm and its position with clients and potential clients alike.


    Please call, mail, or e-mail with your comments or for more information.



Advocates Management, Inc.
1332 South 26th Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220
Voice: (877) ADVOCATES (toll free)
Fax: (920) 684-4414
E-mail: info@advocatesnetwork.com


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