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Today a package of materials from a new client of mine arrived overnight, first AM delivery. The delivery surprised me and exceeded my expectation as our scheduled meeting is weeks away. There was nothing urgent about me receiving the materials, but it sure was nice to have them in hand so far in advance. Then I recalled how earlier communications with the managing partner and his staff had clued me in that I was dealing with a first class organization with great respect and value for everyone they do business with, even those outside the direct revenue stream. Their treatment of others goes beneath the surface and is the heart and soul of their success.
They are successful not only because the firm has excellent, experienced lawyers, though they do. Not because they discount services or offer alternate fee arrangements, they don't. They are successful because they have a law firm culture that operates on mutual respect, consideration, and honesty. CLIENTS like that. A successful firm will not take for granted the impact their internal culture has upon its success.
Truth be told, you can actually tell A LOT about a law firm's culture by the way they treat their vendors. When someone told me this, years ago, I thought it was absurd. Now, after 15 years in the legal profession, both as an employee and a vendor, I can tell you its true. [Too bad more prospects don't know this or they'd be interviewing a firm's vendors, not their lawyers, to uncover what they might expect from the client/attorney/law firm relationship.]
I can now predict, with accuracy, client satisfaction levels in almost 100% of cases simply by my dealings with the firm as a vendor. I have found that there is a direct correlation between the degree to which I am treated respectfully and the degree of the law firm's success. Weird, I know....well, maybe not.
In a new book by Barry Libert of Mzinga, "Social Nation. How to harness the power of Social Media to attract customers, motivate employees and grow your business," (Wiley, 2010), Libert posits that the power of culture is not to be underestimated where business and community intersect. (Yes, your clients are a community!) Among many golden nuggets the book has to offer (full review to follow shortly*), Libert proposes that clients can sense when your culture is a healthy one, and a healthy culture is a healthy company.
"If the DNA is healthy, the company is healthy. If it is not, the company, just like your family, will falter and eventually fail. In business, it means your customers will leave in pursuit of a competitor that will care more about them and better meet their needs."
I couldn't agree with Libert more. To wit, I've worked inside law firms that had a DNA of respect, honesty and action. They respected their employees and their vendors, i.e., valued their expertise, engaged in fair contracts, didn't haggle, returned calls, and paid invoices promptly. Not surprisingly, they also had a lot of loyal and happy clients and are still going strong today. Conversely, I've also worked where it was exactly the opposite. Ironically, in once such instance, the law firm no longer exists!