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Airlines do a lot of crazy things — and get mocked on social media regularly for it. But they understand one key aspect of the customer experience — their entry into the aircraft. Whether it be a 22-minute or a 22-hour flight — the first 4 to 10 minutes set the tone. The same is true for law firms.

You have more than 4 minutes — maybe up to 40 days — but clients use this same “boarding” experience to define how they perceive their law firm’s future behavior and set their expectations. So, why does this matter?

BTI research reveals at least 44% of top legal decisions makers are in transition. They break down like this:

  • 30% are new to their role
    —15% have less than 12 months of tenure
    —15% have been in their role for less than 24 months

Clients say it takes 2 years to fully transition into their new role as corporate counsel.

  • 14% of top legal decision makers are poised to take a new position — they are either actively scanning or passively looking. Either way — they are likely to go.

Clients tell us most law firms offer a perfunctory hello or greeting. Clients rarely get a call or visit from a leadership partner from their law firms. Less than 5% of clients are offered an organized, systematic onboarding by their law firm. And it is really the law firms who miss out.

Clients bring new thinking and perspectives including:

  • A new set of objectives for the legal department
  • A mandate from top management about the legal strategy
  • Preferred working style and approach to outside counsel
  • Hunger to learn about the legal situation and their new departments
  • A preconceived notion about existing law firms

The onboarding process gives you privileged access to this new thinking.

Ideally, the new GCs want briefings and insight about what is happening around them and what they are getting into. These same clients want to know all about the law firms and the attorneys managing the relationship — and they want to learn these things quickly.

You can take advantage of this overlooked and missed opportunity. We recommend you:

  • Develop a formal new client onboarding process
  • Create briefings to explain the current legal situation as you see it
  • Provide a summary of all matters you work on and their status
  • Introduce the team either via Zoom or in person
  • Ask about their goals
  • Inquire if they have any mandates (i.e., settle all matters, lower costs, do more deals)
  • Inquire about communication and staffing preferences
  • Schedule onboarding and update meetings built around your client’s schedule

We recommend making these tools available to all partners and provide training on how to use them. A few clever law firms have designated partners who drive the onboarding process. These are often rainmakers who know how to set a client up for success. And they set themselves up for success as well.

One big bonus of the formal onboarding process — the 14% of clients poised to change their jobs will likely bring you with them if you helped them onboard in their current role.

Client job and career changes offer relationship-building opportunities which create the most robust business development opportunities. Clients are changing jobs at the highest level we have seen in 30 years. We recommend riding this wave for all it’s worth — and make it a way of life.

We discussed these, and many other points, in our webinar, The BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2021, delivered last week. You can view it here.

Be well. Be safe.


The MAD Clientist

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