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Client strategic initiatives for law firms: Leveraging legal client teams to strengthen relationships and elevate client service for strategic accounts

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Law firms are forming legal client teams to service high-value clients who meet established criteria, including revenue contribution, growth potential, and alignment with the firm’s client strategic initiatives. These legal client teams, comprised of curated groups of lawyers and other firm professionals, focus on meeting their select clients’ operational goals and other client service needs. In addition to servicing these accounts, legal client teams often function as a research and development arm within a firm or practice group that drives discussions about trends and concerns that could impact their client’s business.

In an increasingly competitive market for legal services, it makes sense for firms to invest resources into strategically aligned clients, because strengthening and expanding relationships with existing clients results in a stable and diversified book of business. When firms position themselves as trusted advisors to strategic accounts, both sides benefit in that clients receive dedicated resources to service a wide range of legal concerns while firms enjoy the higher profitability associated with streamlined access to new business.

When legal client teams meet on a regular cadence across practice groups to discuss the status and future needs of their client, the process involves a holistic approach. Each expert on the team brings a unique perspective to assessing circumstances, addressing issues, mitigating risk, and identifying cross-sell opportunities. When legal client teams are coordinated, they’re able to mobilize resources and expertise quickly and decisively, adding deep value to their clients, connecting them more closely, and therefore making their clients’ business less portable.

Supporting client strategic initiatives

Historically, law firms focused on revenue contribution as the key metric for legal client-team eligibility. Today, they’re leveraging sophisticated data analytics to surface untapped opportunities for growth by identifying clients with attributes that align with their client strategic initiatives. So if your firm is eyeing opportunity in an emerging sector that aligns with an up-and-coming client, or if there’s an opportunity to build a novel specialization that creates a new revenue stream for your firm’s book of business, turn to your data to best determine whether the opportunity merits a client team.

Say your firm wants to build a closer alliance with a client that’s the market leader in robotics — the account is innovating quickly, and your data shows a steep growth trajectory for the sector. Like your client, your firm is headquartered in Silicon Valley and has deep expertise in emerging tech. You have partners with expertise in product liability, compliance obligations, intellectual property, and AI. Because this client is strategically aligned with your firm’s specialty and focus, forming a legal client team to bolster the relationship can bring significant advantages to both resulting from a mutually fruitful strategic alliance.

Or say your firm seeks to strengthen a relationship with a client in the healthcare industry. The client is building clinics in new geographies, and your analysis shows that demand for legal services in the healthcare industry is outpacing supply — so firms offering this specialization are currently commanding higher fees. You have partners with expertise in HIPAA, complex litigation, medical malpractice, and health care labor disputes. Because of this alignment with client needs, and since the client presents an opportunity for your firm to launch a unique and lucrative practice area, providing a client team makes sense.

Bolstering the strength of client relationships with the firm

The formation of legal client teams can bring an additional benefit to your top clients: These teams promote a sense of collaboration among lawyers who are often accustomed to working on their own. When your firm takes a team-oriented approach to providing legal services, you can deliver better outcomes for clients by giving them access to carefully chosen experts who work hand-in-glove with their internal teams.

You should encourage your legal client team members to actively cultivate relationships at all levels, including with lawyers, paralegals, marketing, and support staff. By closely integrating with the client’s in-house team, your firm can reduce key-person risk — meaning the strength of the client relationship is diversified, not dependent on one individual who might retire or otherwise depart your organization or your client’s.

Furthermore, by giving early-career lawyers the opportunity to join a legal client team and work with various practice groups, they can gain valuable exposure to the challenges and benefits of delivering client-focused legal services as a team. Not to mention, by building a pool of top talent that can eventually assume leadership positions, you’ll help ensure that your firm is feeding the pipeline for client succession planning.

Delivering superior client service

Clients benefit significantly from the focused attention paid to their organization, and from access to a diverse group of highly skilled specialists that can provide counsel on the specific legal matters pertinent to their company.

A typical legal client team meeting involves a gathering of lawyers from various practice groups who have direct working experience with the client or the client’s industry. During the meeting, they’ll share information to collectively increase their knowledge of the client’s business. They might create sub-teams tasked with educating the larger group on various client-related topics, including industry trends, competitive activity, product and service line analysis, and growth opportunities.

Providing this level of client service requires a documented plan that ensures that the client’s needs are not only met, but exceeded. To keep clients in the loop, you should include them in the plan-building process and provide quarterly updates and value-add services like training and seminars.

Leveraging technology to help legal client teams succeed

The decision to designate a legal client team requires careful consideration and planning. Whether your firm is interested in building specializations, expanding geographies, or entering new industries, you need to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve and how it maps to your client strategic initiatives.

Identifying and qualifying clients that meet the criteria required to merit a legal client team requires a thorough and multifaceted assessment, which in turn requires quality data analytics.

To start, you’ll need to gauge the strength of the existing relationship by looking at who within your firm knows whom within the client’s organization, and how well. You should also look at the number of practice groups engaged by the client, and verify that the client is expanding the scope of its engagement with the firm — not contracting.

When a firm decides to assign an account a client team, both parties must be mutually invested in the relationship. Using a solution like Marketing & Business Development, you can more accurately assess the key factors to create an objective relationship score to help ensure your success.

To learn more about Marketing & Business Development, schedule a demo.