July 2012

When I was a young associate an eternity ago, my firm held an internal seminar on developing new business.  Almost every associate attended, with pen and notebook ready to write down the means by which riches would be obtained.  The top rainmaker stood up and said, “The best source of new business is…..”  And then he waited, a long time really, until the silence was so acute you could hear the proverbial pin drop.  After a suitably long pause, he finished “….old business.”  Ta-da!  We all looked on in stunned disbelief.  How would new business from old business help any of us become rainmakers?  In point of fact, it wouldn’t.  At least not then.

That lesson, which pops into my head ever time I deal with the phone company, the cable company, and all those other companies that give better deals to new customers than they do to old customers, has served me well over time.  There are so many firms or lawyers that put much more effort into winning new clients than they do into making old clients happy.  They are missing the boat.  Old clients not only can give you more business, they are (or should be) your best source of referrals.

The moral of the story?  People are going to focus on new business–it is a part of our DNA.  But do not do so at the expense of ensuring your current clients.  Indeed, it is essential to make sure you are capable of wow-ing current clients before shifting focus.

One of the things that happens during boarding on most flights is that people carry on telephone conversations that are impossible to ignore. I used to feel a sense of guilt about hearing what they were saying, but lately I’ve concluded that if they are foolish enough to speak loudly in front of so many people, the speakers must want us to know what they are saying.  And there are so many lessons to learn.

On a recent flight to San Francisco (en route to Medford, OR), a woman was complaining to her friend about her treatment at the hands of TSA.  Complaining at length.  They were disrespectful and rude (oh, the irony) and she would never be returning to Chicago as a result.  She had enjoyed her time in Chicago immensely, but this one negative experience outweighed all the good ones.

Since the flight was long and I forgot to bring reading material for the times when electronic devices had to be turned off, I reflected on other stories I had heard that shared this theme.  One bad encounter, one bad event, ruining an otherwise positive experience.  There are all too many similar stories.

Since this is a blog about client service, it should be pretty clear where I’m going with this.  Clients are people too, and their experiences with your firm are more than just their experience with you.  You might want to take some time to list all the different “touchpoints” your client has with your firm, and then assess whether each of those experiences is a strong positive one, every single time.  If not, you’ve just identified a project list.

In many speeches, I have urged in-house counsel to pool their pricing information since doing so, and making it public, would create targets that competitive law firms would try to beat.  I believe that price transparency, which clients have within their power, will have the single largest effect on lowering prices and increasing value.  But there does not seem to traction for this in the corporate world.  The same is not true in the individual consumer world, thanks in large part to the entrepreneurs at AttorneyFee.com.  It was my great pleasure to have lunch with Richard Komaiko and BeiBei Que, two of the team behind the business.  It was refreshing to see two enthusiastic business persons with a great understanding of their market and how their business can make an impact.  AttorneyFee is making fees for basic personal legal services like estate planning, real estate, basic criminal work, bankruptcy or debt relief and other areas transparent in a number of markets.  I think this is a great tool in this area.  I can only hope that once they conquer the area of personal legal services, the principals at AttorneyFee bring their innovative thinking to the corporate legal world!

  I woke this morning wondering whether I would experience the best of America in my lifetime.  Certainly, the way we are as a country now is not our best.  I thought about how we have divided ourselves into red and blue states, harkening back to a time when the states were union or confederate.   Not our finest hour then, and not now either.  We have gone from a country where people live free to one where different groups exist solely to make others live like them.  Neither side and no group in our current political climate can claim the high road: all are in a win or die, you’re with me or you’re the enemy mode.  Maybe the days when people of principle compromised to move toward agreed goals never really existed, but it seems like we used to be more like that.  I don’t mean to suggest that there are not principles for which support should be resolute and unyielding, but certainly every principle is not like that, and it is not weakness for people to recognize that their particular issue is not one of the few issues where support must be unyielding.  Will there ever be a day when the “aisle” that separates the parties in Congress becomes less important than the things that join us together?  Will there ever be a day when it is less important how others practice their religion that my ability to freely practice mine? Will there ever be a day when our response to ideas we don’t like is not to condemn the speaker but to show the weakness of his ideas?  Will there ever be a time where we are not red or blue, but instead are red, white and blue?  I wonder.  I hope.