Our last blog post highlighted that of the four components that make up a lawyer’s brand (technical skills, client service, dynamic approach and personal qualities) technical skills are far and away (and we mean far) the most important. That said, the way you package those skills and the delivery method of your work product have the second most powerful impact on your brand. Basically, if the quality of your technical skills is high but your client service skills are mediocre or poor, you are seriously compromising all of the hard work and talent that went into your work product.
And consider this, regardless of what environment you work in, you are in competition with your peers. You are competing for the best assignments, the best mentors, the best resources and opportunities and possibly clients whether external or internal. If you are working diligently to have stellar legal skills, think how unfortunate it would be to lose out to someone who knocks it out of the park on both work product and client service. Because rest assured if both high quality and service are available—that will be the buyer’s choice every time. So, don’t drop your energy or the ball after finishing the product—make sure it gets delivered with the same standard of quality.
Whether your client is the partner you work for, an external client or your supervisor, your job is essentially three-fold: to make his/her life easier; to help them solve their problems; and to make them look good to whomever their clients are. The primary question to ask yourself is: “How can I most effectively do each of these things?” Here are 6 basic ideas to consider implementing:
1.) Know your clients: Make it your business to know their business as well as their preferences. What are their major objectives, goals and responsibilities? What is important to them? What keeps them up at night? How do they want you to interact with them? Face-to-face? Via email? How often do they like you to check in? Daily? Hourly? When during the day are they most likely to be available for you to get their time and attention to do your job effectively?
2.) Lessen their load: Take the ball as far as you can without overstepping boundaries. This is a delicate balance that may take some time to master. It hinges on knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know. Start with thinking one step beyond what they’ve asked you to do and then checking in with them to see if they would like you to take it. Taking that initiative will establish you as someone committed to doing his/her job of making his/her client’s job easier.
3.) Ask for the big picture: In order to fully execute on points 1 & 2, it helps to take the time to understand the bigger picture context your client operates in. To the extent you can, piece this together on your own—perhaps through online research, a quick perusal of relevant documents or maybe asking more junior members of the team. You will only be able to take this so far on your own. The next step is to take what you know to your client and ask him/her to fill in the pieces. Your initiative will impress your client and inspire them to take the time to explain the bigger picture.
4.) Ask questions: When you don’t know something that is critical to you being able to progress with your work, don’t be afraid to ask. Spinning your wheels will only cause delays. Again, you can try to guess or speculate what the answer is and use that as your means of checking in.
5.) Keep them up to date: Clients do not like surprises and they do not like being kept in the dark or wondering whether or not they are going to get what they asked for in the form they asked for it. Check in regularly (but not in a stalking way) to make sure they feel comfortable enough with the way the project is going.
6.) Be available and responsive: Perhaps obvious but worth reiterating, when they call or reach out, make sure you get back to them as soon as possible and make them feel as though they are your number one priority.