Monday, May 23rd, 2016
By Gideon Grunfeld
An accomplished large law firm corporate attorney recently told me, “I want my clients calling me for everything.”
This statement was made in the context of him describing how he regularly refers a variety of service providers to his clients, many of whom aren’t lawyers. He wants to cultivate a sense in his clients’ minds that he can be useful to them beyond being their lawyer.
Too many lawyers fall into the trap of identifying their expertise solely in terms of their legal specialty. This narrow focus is one reason why many lawyers don’t try to help solve a broader range of their client’s problems. This is especially true for lawyers who represent businesses and other institutional clients where repeat business is a real possibility.
Thus, for example, M&A lawyers should network and cultivate relationships with lenders and other financing sources because their clients predictably require help raising money. Likewise, business immigration lawyers are often in a position to act as their clients’ concierge because foreign investors often have few connections when they first move to this country.
The non-legal services attorneys provide can also be more personal in nature. They can go beyond providing referrals and making personal introductions. You can provide clients advice with respect to wine, restaurants, or travel destinations. There’s a reason why almost every large company and law firm can provide their clients with tickets to sporting events or concerts. An article published in Entrepreneur discussed strategies for improving a client’s experience, and highlighted the importance of helping clients solve their secondary problems—those issues that are not strictly within the reason why they hired you in the first place.
Encouraging your clients to contact you for non-legal help might seem like a bad idea if you are focused on maximizing billable hours in the short run. But if lawyers want to get serious about fully understanding their client’s priorities and helping them solve their problems, they need to stop defining themselves as operating out of a narrow silo that is their area of legal specialty.