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September 15, 2010

Value questions to ask your top clients (Part 1 of 2)

When an AmLaw 100 senior partner recently asked us for advice on strengthening the relationship with a top client, we recommended asking questions about his client’s perception of value.  We sent this list.  His task was to pick a few key questions that fit this situation, schedule a meeting, and let his client talk 80% of the time while he listened carefully. 

Direct questions about value

  • How could we increase the value of the services we provide?
  • How satisfied are you with our services, on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • What could we do to increase our rating?
  • Have you heard of any interesting tactics other law firms are using to provide more value?

Questions about the ACC Value Challenge

  • Is your company involved in the ACC Value Challenge?
  • Do you think it is relevant to our relationship?

Background: The ACC Value Challenge is an initiative of the Association of Corporate Counsel, “The world’s largest community of in-house counsel, with more than 25,000 members in over 70 countries.”  Its goal is to promote “value-driven, high quality legal services that deliver solutions for a reasonable cost.”  The questions below were reproduced from ACC’s web page discussion of “How to talk with outside counsel (or clients).”

  • How can we reestablish trust and improve our relationship, on both sides?
  • How can we assure an adequate flow of work so that outside lawyers understand the client better and can be more efficient in what they do?
  • How can we get junior lawyers better trained, priced at more reasonable levels, practicing law more on the front line, and less likely to leave?
  • How can we better budget and manage costs and staffing?
  • How can we better institutionalize the relationship?
  • How can we evaluate progress and performance?
  • How can we create a culture of continuous improvement, on both sides?

Questions about client satisfaction

  • What do you like about working with our firm?
  • What could we do better?
  • What could we do to make your life easier?
  • Can you think of any ways we could help clients like you, or new services we could offer?
  • Could we better use technology to be of service to you?
  • What type of status reporting do you like? Weekly? Monthly? Email or phone?
  • Would you recommend our firm to others? Why or why not?
  • If you managed a firm like ours, what would you do differently?
  • How would you rate the quality of our legal product?
  • How well do we listen to your concerns?
  • How well do we understand your goals?
  • How well do we understand your industry?
  • Do we do a good job keeping you informed?
  • Do we explain legal issues in terms that are easy for decision makers to understand?
  • Do you perceive us as genuinely committed to your business success?
  • Do you perceive our lawyers as prompt, responsive, and accessible on short notice?
  • Are our billing statements accurate and complete?
  • Do our invoices include an appropriate level of detail?
  • Do you think our fees are fair and reasonable?

Note: Many of these questions address your service and could easily be reworded to ask how clients perceive other law firms they have worked with in the past.  That can be an excellent way to get insights into where competitors are vulnerable.

More questions will appear in Part 2, next week. 

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