Are Client Teams the Key to Law Firm Growth?

Are Client Teams the Key to Law Firm Growth?

February 17, 2023

What is a client team? Dave Southern, Director of Marketing Communications at Mayer Brown describes client service teams as a group of individuals within law firms whose main focus is to advance relationships with a law firm’s clients.  

They do this by understanding each clients’ specific needs. Part of their core responsibility is to identify and acquire new clients for the law firm. As Southern explains, a client team’s success hinges on the composition of the team. This means, every client team needs specific roles to be filled and executed. 

In this blog we dive into client service teams and their ability to drive profitable revenue growth for law firms. Southern, an experienced Business Development & Marketing Leader in the Professional Services Sector, uses his expertise and experience working in law firms such as Baker McKenzie, Baker & Hostetler LLP, and Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP to teach us everything there is to know about client teams. Specifically, we will answer the following questions:  

1 – Why is there an increased demand for client teams? 

2 – What does it mean to grow a client? 

3 – How should you set up a successful client team? 

4 – What indicates a client team is successful?

5 – How should you align client teams? 

6 – How can Nexl help law firms set up and manage their client teams?

Why is there an increased demand for client teams? 

Not only do client teams build strong relationships with key clients, they also positively represent their law firm. The strong relationships that the client team builds create loyal clients. Upon the implementation of client teams, law firms have seen a minimum of 50% growth in their profitable revenues. In Heidi Gardner’s book “Smart Collaboration”, Gardner quantifies this through researching the effect that client teams have on revenue growth.   

Gardner’s book identifies an industry-wide trend: the need for better collaboration in law firms. Through her research, she discovered that when a client relationship expands from one practice group to two, law firms see triple the revenue from that client.  

The conclusion we can draw is this: the more practice groups involved per client, the higher the potential revenue of that client for the law firm. It seems intuitive—but in the legal industry, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Many firms face a historical culture that encourages possessiveness over clients, and payment structures that encourage prioritizing origination fees over growing the overall revenue of the firm.  

Law firms need to bring together various practice groups to work together to serve individual clients. This will ensure that lawyers take full advantage of all opportunities. Thus, the need for client teams. 

What does it mean to grow a client?

Client growth means expanding the scope of work your firm does for a given client—thus increasing the frequency and duration of a given client’s engagements.

Client teams are like the “gatekeepers” of high-profile clients. They work together to increase response times, collaborate on quality communications, and ensure that the client experiences the highest quality of service. With an exceptional client service team, a client can ask anything of the firm and get a near-immediate, high-quality response. 

“Clients value relationships that feel like an extension of their team.”

Dave Southern

As Southern describes, growing a client team means “increasing the stickiness of clients.” Simply illustrated, growing a client is like sticking something together with Velcro. The more loops there are, the better the Velcro will hold.  

The client is the Velcro, and practice areas in the law firm are those loops. By increasing the number of practice groups serving one client, law firms grow the share they hold with that client. 

According to Gardner, investing in client service teams increases the “stickiness” of clients—a term that encompasses both loyalty and frequency of engagement. “Stickiness” drives expansion of  a given account or client—thus increasing bottom line revenue.   

Client teams grow their clients through building strong relationships. By understanding a client’s business and legal needs, they can offer proactive solutions. These solutions are then enhanced through the inclusion of multiple practice groups.   

How to set up a successful client team? 

There are a few key roles required for a client team to be successful:   

Principal Relationship Team Member 

Operating Team Member(s) 

Process Focused Team Member(s)

Growth Focused Team Member(s)

1. Principal Relationship Team Member

A principal relationship is considered the “owner” of the client team. Generally, this person is the one with the closest relationship with the client, who is best positioned to coordinate the team—including origination credit and management credit. The principal relationship team member takes accountability and responsibility for the client team.  They lead the way to increase trust and loyalty with the client, leading to more opportunities for the law firm—and allowing the law firm to grow the client’s account. 

2. Operating Team Member(s)

The operating team members are those individuals who are currently doing work for the client. This section of the client team handles all day-to-day work for the client. They understand the client very well, given their proximity to the work they do for the client. This means that they know what the client needs in the context of “today.” 

Operating team members are responsible for identifying current trends for the client—like identifying which of the client’s needs could evolve into bigger issues or opportunities. They then translate these needs to connections with functional experts within the firm.  

3. Process Focused Team Member(s)

Process focused team members generally consist of practice managers and/or legal process leaders. Their core responsibility is to ensure that all processes are executed smoothly for every client. These processes include general matter management, delivery of services and the quality of services rendered.   

4. Growth Focused Team Member(s)

Growth focused team members consider the means and mechanisms to increase the percentage of profitable revenue from each client. These individuals have a clear focus on growth orientation and do not fulfil any other role. 

It is important that all of the above roles are filled by individuals within the law firm who have the necessary skills above their core role. It’s not about hiring a new team for client service delivery—it’s about using the resources you already have, strategically.   

How should you set up a successful client team? 

An often overlooked step in project management is measuring the success after implementation. It is crucial to measure the success of every project—including the success of a client team The project team must track their progress, identifying both areas of success and areas that need improvement. By measuring the success of a client team, law firms will gain valuable insight into their client satisfaction. 

So, how do you begin measuring a client team’s success? Law firms should begin by making use of client feedback to understand the client’s perception of the client team assigned to them. Client feedback is crucial in driving law firm growth, as it allows the firm to understand what is working well and what needs improvement.  

This feedback can come in various forms, such as client surveys or informal conversations. Client feedback should be actively sought out and acted upon.  

Another consideration for the client team’s success is slightly harder to measure—the strength of the team’s client relationships. The level of communications between the team and the client, compared to the quality of output and the percentage of revenue from the client will indicate the strength of engagement. 

How should you align client teams? 

To align client teams, law firms should establish clear objectives and strategies, and provide regular training through open communication channels. This will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. Alignment is driven by the shared understanding of knowing where the client is and where the client wants to be.  

Legal technology can also be used to manage the process of client teams and growing law firms. For example, a client relationship management (CRM) system can be used to track and manage client interactions. A CRM also automates workflow and uses document management tools to streamline processes and improve efficiency.  

How can Nexl help law firms set up and manage their client teams? 

Legal technology such as Nexl can be a valuable tool for managing client teams and growing law firms. Nexl is a client relationship management (CRM) system that helps law firms track and manage client interactions, automate workflow, and improve efficiency.  

With features such as contact management, document management, and task tracking, Nexl can help law firms stay top of client needs. It also offers analytics and reporting capabilities that can help law firms make data-driven decisions. These decisions help inform client teams and growth strategies. By using legal technology such as Nexl, law firms can streamline processes, improve communication, and ultimately drive growth. 

Conclusion

In summary, client teams play a crucial role in driving law firm growth by building and maintaining relationships with existing clients, as well as identifying and acquiring new clients. Growing a client involves expanding the practice areas involved. Importantly, client teams must increase the frequency and duration of engagements. Strong, aligned client teams, client feedback, and legal technology are all key drivers of law firm growth.  

To understand more about how Nexl can help you implement and manage successful client teams, click on the “Request Demo” button below.  

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