We conduct an enormous number of client interviews at BTI. We have conducted more than 300 just this year. We hear a lot. It covers the spectrum and always brings an unexpected surprise. Most good — while others grab your attention — immediately.
These 7 mini cases offer a learning experience and the extreme edge of the unexpected:
The FBI Raid
The company offices of the GC we were going to interview were raided by the FBI the morning of the scheduled interview. We did not make it into the building and quietly left.
The Melt Down
4 of every 100 interviews are at meltdown. Doesn’t sound like much — except the average size of these relationships is $14,000,000 in annual billings.
As one Chief Legal Officer explained to us — he used 2 firms in a big way — and these 2 firms merged. The 2 partners now managing his account didn’t get along. They got to the point of submitting different proposals for the same work at different rates. To his credit — the GC called them into a meeting and told them to learn to work together — he didn’t want any part of it.
The 2 partners continued their personal rivalry — crossing the GCs redline.
We recommended our law firm client intervene immediately. This interview ended at 3:20 on a Friday afternoon. We were meeting with our law firm client’s chair at 4:30. The chair met with the GC the following Monday. He apologized and listened for more than 2 hours.
They still have the client — with higher billings — and a new relationship partner — approved by the client in advance.
A Feedback Party
After scheduling an interview — and confirming — we showed up. Most interviews are with one person. We often interview multiple people at a single client — usually individually. Maybe 2 at a time.
We walked into a room of 9 in-house attorneys. All are eager to offer their feedback about our client. We orchestrated the feedback and painted a detailed picture of our client’s performance. And — the GC noted the benefit of his staff being able to hear each other’s thoughts and comments — and have a better understanding of our client.
Not Noticing Your Client Got Bigger
11 of every 100 clients tell us they love their law firms — but don’t understand why they keep proposing the same size teams — mostly in M&A — when their deals have gotten so much bigger over the years. This client believed the law firms can’t handle larger transactions. Our law clients usually quickly adjust their proposed teams based on deep discussions about the deal and its size — with our most successful client tripling their already 7-figure billings.
It is easy to picture long-term relationships in the same state as when the relationship began. A fresh look can change your view — and opportunity.
After 3 interviews with the same person — all interrupted by the in-house attorney’s family needs — our interviewer became friendly with this client. In the final interview — this in-house attorney indicated she was getting over a brief flu which had traveled through every member of her household.
Our interviewer indicated she thought she might be coming down with something and at the end of the interview they wished each other well. The phone rang at BTI about 30 minutes later — this in-house counsel who worked at a restaurant chain offered to deliver “the most awesome chicken soup” from their restaurant in the Boston area.
The Day the Music Stopped
In 4 years of annual interviews with the GC of a large NY Bank, the GC talked about what a well-oiled machine our client was. He likened them to a symphony. “It was a joy to watch” he would say. Year 5’s interview lacked the considerable praise of the prior 4 years. The quantitative ranking dropped to unacceptable levels — the discussion portion and open-ended questions revealed the litigation had been resolved — and — the firm submitted a final bill for service rendered.
The final bill included an amount for budget overruns. This client was pleased with the litigation’s outcome — but budget overruns are not tolerable. He would not be working with them again. Our client was unaware they had been exiled.
This prompted an intervention and detailed discussion about the overrun between our client and the bank. They agreed the firm had done excellent work — but they didn’t fully understand the consequences of overrunning a budget.
The firm designed a special online budgeting system for this client — and the client agreed to try again, and they agreed to frequent meetings and updates. And the firm pledged to never deliver an overrun again — on the managing partner’s word.
Your DEI Efforts Aren’t Enough — Until You Ask Me to Help
It was our client’s largest client. We interviewed the GC for 8 years in a row. While she praised the firm in so many ways — she indicated their women’s initiatives were weak. The firm took these comments seriously and increased its investment in the program. This cycle went on for 4 years. The firm could not meet this client’s standards. And this GC has great passion for the issue.
We recommended our client invite this GC to be part of the group managing their Women’s Initiative. She would attend all meetings — and would play an active and visible role. This GC made a number of suggestions and helped our client collaborate with other women’s advocacy groups.
The feedback after this GC joined the committee changed. She was impressed with our client’s progress — and started holding our client up to other firms as the standard. It pays to embrace criticism.
Good client feedback offers so much more than pinpointing your performance. You get backstories, unseen strengths, insights into client personalities, and maybe some unexpected excitement.
So many client interactions fly under the radar or remain unnoticed by their ubiquitous presence. Your ability to spot the subtleties can be the difference between enduring and episodic.
Thanks to our clients for letting us use their redacted experience.
The MAD Clientist is always happy to talk client feedback. Please feel free to reach out.
Best in the market ahead.
The Mad Clientist