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Clients have a whole new set of substantive questions for their law firms—especially the ones they are thinking about hiring. And it could just be a sleeping game changer.

Clients want to know exactly how you train your associates. Not just surface-level answers and statistics. They are looking for content, curriculum, and the frequency of your training. In-house counsel want to understand your legal training, skill training, project management training, client service, and relationship management training.

Top legal decision makers are examining bench skills and strength at large and midsize firms. They see more turnover in their law firms’ attorney ranks and are pushing to see what is behind the front line. You can blame lateral partner moves, partner retirements, staff attrition, and thinning in house staff as the culprits—along with an increase in mistakes and errors. All this undermines their confidence in the firms on which they rely—and just may prevent these firms from getting new assignments.

This is the beginning of a new era where associates are much more important to clients. They are convinced associates will be playing a bigger role simply because law firms are admitting fewer partners while client caseloads get bigger.

Law firms can jump on this trend or fight it. It’s time to showcase your training. How often do you train your associates and on what? Do you design training for each associate class or do all associates get the same training? What do you do to keep your best associates? Some clients are asking how happy the associates are. These clients are doing their due diligence before they invest more in their law firm relationships.

Client interest in associates adds one more element to strengthen your client relationships. Now is the time to start asking clients what they would like to see. It’s also time to include associate training in your pitches. You can showcase your talent development skills and how happy your associates are. Happy associates are more engaged and likely to stay longer—and make a better impression on clients. Clients want to know you are all over this because it impacts them and their future—as it does yours.

Look for me to talk more about the associate experience in upcoming blogs. Be sure to subscribe to stay ahead of the game.