Why Corporate Law Firms Need a Client Value Team | JD Supra Perspectives

The primary function of a customer value (or customer success) team in a software company is to ensure that customers receive continued and lasting value from the products and services they have purchased. As a leader of a customer value team, I see it as an understanding of the customer’s success criteria (goals), desired outcomes, risk tolerance, communication preferences, etc.

In the software environment, we have well-defined processes for onboarding new customers and users, and for assessing customer value throughout the customer relationship lifecycle. For years, I’ve wondered why most law firms don’t engage this way with their clients.

Takeaways from 2022 legal marketing events

Recently, I attended the Thomson Reuters Institute Marketing Partner Forum, the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, and the LMA Tech West Virtual Conference. These conferences are where law firm marketing, innovation and business development professionals come together to learn about and discuss best practices from leading thinkers and visionaries in the legal industry.

Unsurprisingly, I was drawn to the technology and customer service focused sessions. There were several outstanding sessions that brought me back to this idea of ​​client value teams in law firms.

Changing customer expectations require a different model

I’ve heard over and over again that lawyers are generally expected to handle all aspects of the client relationship. They do this while practicing law, serving on committees and developing new business.

This is an unsustainable model and has been for decades. He was born at a time when the demands of the practice of law were different – ​​and importantly, so were the expectations of clients. Clients today want law firms to offer much more than they did even five years ago: case budgets, practice innovation, progress reports, and more. None of these services were integral to the typical day of a corporate lawyer.

Now they are the norm. Marketing, IT and knowledge management departments work hard to find technology solutions to meet all client needs, however, with so much on lawyers’ plates, adoption can be problem.

Provide customer-centric service

At the same time, expectations for innovation have risen and companies are being measured on their ability to deliver truly customer-centric service.

At a basic level, they want to know that their legal costs are invested in programs and processes that benefit them (the client). I suspect most lawyers in law firms don’t think of client value that way; for them, the value is measured by the result they obtain for the customer.

Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of law firms hiring professionals to handle legal matters. There are now Chief Client Officers, Chief Innovation Officers and Chief Content Officers – that’s a good start, but it still leaves most of the client relationship work in the hands of lawyers.

In my experience, most companies think they are customer-centric, but when the going gets tough, without a dedicated and focused investment in customer experience, they risk falling short of meeting their customers’ expectations. clients.

A New Paradigm: The Customer Value Team

Given all this, is it time to change this paradigm? Is it time to hand the day-to-day work of customer experience management to trained professionals?

I affirm that the answer is yes.

Perhaps the vision of the modern law firm should be for lawyers to be subject matter experts in their practice areas or industries. Leave customer management to professionals whose role is to ensure that customers receive the greatest possible value from their business.

Of course, that’s a hard sell – I’m well aware that many lawyers think they can and should do it all for every client. There are law firms that have adopted elements of client value teams and their programs are extremely successful.

The goal should be to better understand the customer’s universe– from how they approach their business goals to the internal pressures they manage – and determine how the firm can partner with them to achieve their business and legal goals.

How to organize the team

The ideal situation is to have a dedicated customer value team that reports to a Chief Client Officer.

In this scenario, client managers are assigned to the majority of the company’s active clients and they have industry or practice expertise. They also have strong business management skills, commuter communication ability, high-level decision-making abilities, and access to law firm decision makers. They are able to build trust both internally and externally.

The account manager is appointed and presented to the main interlocutors of the company as soon as an engagement letter is signed, otherwise during the process of developing the relationship. More frequently, the primary customer contact will be an operations professional who fully understands and likely appreciates this model.

Management of the integration process

The first task of the client manager is to manage the onboarding process, which sets the stage for the ongoing relationship.

First, they coordinate with internal teams to ensure the case is put together so lawyers can start working immediately. They collect information from the client that lawyers often don’t think to ask for and that is necessary for knowledge management, finance and marketing work. They profile the business and document the desired outcomes and criteria for client success.

More importantly, they keep it up to date throughout the relationship lifecycle.

After onboarding is complete, the Client Manager continues to engage with key client stakeholders. Some of the key activities could include:

  • Monitor business progress, including performance against budget.
  • Provide regular updates to the client.
  • Monitor case staffing to ensure diversity goals are met.
  • Organize regular meetings and develop relationships with key client stakeholders.
  • Interview and survey to determine customer satisfaction.
  • Help identify and implement strategies and tactics to develop and expand existing relationships and increase new business.
  • Plan and implement non-billable customer events such as CLEs or on-the-job trainings.

Map the customer journey

Customer Journey Mapping

The customer value team is also responsible for mapping and documenting the company’s customer journey.

In simple terms, the concept of client journey refers to all the touchpoints that clients have in their journey with a law firm. This includes the sum of the experiences customers have when interacting with the company and the brand from the first point of contact – website, event, existing relationship – until the end of the engagement.

The power of the journey mapping process is that it does not focus on what lawyers want their clients to know or do, but rather gets into the minds of clients. It takes empathy. A client value team is best placed to do this work because they are not involved in the day-to-day legal management of clients’ affairs; their sole focus is customer experience.

Client health assessment

Another important role of the customer value team is to lead the effort to adopt the Customer Health Score, a metric used to understand the likelihood that a customer will grow, stay consistent, or unsubscribe.

This is a widely accepted practice across many industries and extremely important for law firms. Although key performance indicators (KPIs) and weighting are different in every organization, a law firm might monitor and measure KPIs such as profitability; customer growth in number of cases, cross-use and spend; customer satisfaction (measured via surveys and/or NPS); and the number and depth of relationships (measured using a CRM or ERM solution) to determine whether customers are growing, thriving, stable, or at risk.

Client value teams are needed in law firms of all sizes

Client value professionals are more the norm in BigLaw than in middle-market law firms. At BigLaw, these professionals reside in the C-Suite, business development departments, and marketing departments. However, a customer value team can and should fit even into small and medium-sized businesses if they want to see growth.

There are many law firms that do this right, and they are considered innovative and understand the plight of general counsel. These firms continue to grow as the chasm between the Am Law 100 and Am Law 200 firms widens.

Now is the time for corporate law firms of all sizes to invest in client value teams – even small law firms can employ a client value specialist. As the wants and needs of corporate clients continue to evolve, the delivery of legal services must also evolve.

Experience data is a customer value team’s greatest asset

Without easily accessible and organized data, processes such as journey mapping and customer health scoring would be nearly impossible. All of the information collected about the company’s clients – from industry to fee agreements to deal description – provides valuable insight.

But collecting this data is only the first step. Data should be usable and not locked up in multiple siled systems. When all data – even when collected from disparate data sources – is brought together in a single platform, the customer value team is equipped with a complete picture of the customer.


Allison Nussbaum is Vice President, Customer Value at Pitchly. Connect with her on LinkedIn.