5 tips to help you move from being “just another attorney” to a truly invaluable resource.
By focusing on a more global perspective with respect to clients, attorneys can grow beyond a useful tool that is interchangeable and sensitive to price into a trusted advisor and counselor for clients. Such growth benefits the client by providing a vigilant eye whose purpose is the unique success of the client regardless of how success is defined. Additionally, the attorney is more likely to develop lifelong clients who depend on their advice and knowledge.
Below are five tips to develop a proper mindset to best serve clients and your law firm.
The more a client trusts their attorney, the more forthcoming they will be concerning important decisions and events in both the life of the business and its owner. In order to develop this trust, it is important to take a genuine interest in both your client’s business and the individual. Developing a genuine interest in the business and the individual will facilitate more topics of discussion outside of the current project and encourage the communication necessary for trust to blossom. Often what embarrasses a client or what clients have trouble expressing are the issues needing the most attention.
Understand your client’s goals.
At the end of the day, what is generally most important to a client is achieving the goals they set. Consistent alignment with client goals is pivotal in ensuring those goals are achieved in an efficient manner. An attorney should make an attempt to understand the 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, one-year, three-year, and five-year goals of the client to ensure the work performed helps accomplish such goals.
When looking at the goals of the client, it is important to consider both the business goals and the personal goals of the individual owners. By looking at both, an attorney may identify conflicts in the goals previously overlooked and assist in properly prioritizing the goals that will guide both the decisions of the company and its owners and the legal support needed.
If an attorney is truly serving as a counselor to the client, the attorney has an obligation to not only generate documents requested, but to also constantly analyze the situation for any protection, structures, or strategies necessary to optimize the client’s potential.
Understand your client’s risk tolerance.
Return on investment is a function of risk and every individual’s tolerance for risk will be unique. The risk tolerance of the owners of a business will often bleed over into the business and is one of the most influential factors in decision-making — determining areas such as insurance, growth strategies, financing strategies and investment strategies. While an attorney should explain the risks involved with varying strategies and allow the client to make the business decision, understanding the client’s taste for risk will allow an attorney to prioritize strategies and avoid recommendations for strategies deemed too risky for some clients or enable an attorney to become more creative with strategies for clients with little risk aversion.
Remember, not everything is billable.
Nothing alienates a client like the feeling they get when they open a bill filled with charges for a 10th of an hour for leaving a voicemail, or scanning documents, or a quick phone call. None of these items provide any measurable value to the client and yet a definitive dollar value has been charged. It is critical to the development of long-lasting relationships to consider the value of the tasks for which you are billing.
By limiting billing for trivial tasks, you may encourage clients to reach out on a regular basis. This more consistent communication can assist in predicting issues far in advance for the client which will often generate cheaper solutions. Additionally, such calls will also generate new work for the attorney. This genuinely generates a win-win situation for all involved while avoiding awkward billing conversations which only strain a relationship.
Look beyond the specific project or task.
Look up. Too often, attorneys become buried in achieving hourly targets and simply generate the requested documents needed for a particular project without a full analysis of the position of the client. While stuck in the grind, it’s easy for an attorney to miss the opportunity to provide helpful advice that the client is not even aware they need.
While it’s important to always exceed client expectations, we must recognize an obligation to keep a keen eye out for what clients may not see coming. Providing additional insight beyond the tasks assigned differentiates a counselor from a run-of-the-mill attorney.
Keith J. Naccari is a partner at Sternberg, Naccari & White, LLC. His practice areas include mergers and acquisitions, business transactions, business counsel, tax strategies, and tax controversies. He may be reached at Keith@snw.law or (504) 324-2141.