In this week’s series of blogs, we are examining the client/lawyer relationship. Our first blogs looked at the state of the current relationship and the changes it has undergone in recent years. Since the 2008 crisis, law firms have seen counsel increasingly turning in-house in a bid to cut costs. This has led to a shift in the power balance in favour of General Counsel, who are demanding more efficiency and better service from their lawyers. But what can lawyers do to offer this value? In our second blog I talk to Arnold Birkhoff and Erik Eversdijk of Dutch law firm Kneppelhout Korthals. Their innovative client centric services model is seeking to meet the challenges facing lawyers in 2017. Namely, how to keep your clients happy?
Kneppelhout Korthals – a client centric approach
“Fear of the unknown is the biggest barrier to change in a law firm” Arnold Birkhoff
This sentiment voiced by Arnold, Voice of the Customer at Kneppelhout Korthals, is one echoed by General Counsel and lawyers alike. The increasing power enjoyed by Counsel has led many lawyers to question how they can ensure their firm’s legacy. How do you instill client loyalty, meet your client’s needs and innovate all whilst continuing with the day to day demands of legal advice? Well, by understanding what your customer needs, argues Arnold.
“We want client satisfaction to be in the DNA of our firm” Arnold Birkhoff
If you visit the firm’s website, you are immediately aware that their client-led approach is not only highly proactive but completely transparent. Over a period of six years, Arnold has led the drive to ensure a continuous feedback loop for their customers in the form of client surveys. These surveys are sent out to all clients, both after a matter is completed and also on a yearly basis. They then publish (be they good or bad) the surveys on the company website.
Needless to say, there was a lot of resistance in the beginning.
”It was a slow process to begin with. We started the surveys only for labour law, which is my practice group. It took about two to three years before we got the whole firm to come on board,” says Arnold.
The motivation for the departure from a traditional legal services model was in part down to the rise of technology. Technology has brought upheaval to lawyers, making it the work of minutes to build a contract or find an alternative adviser. In the opinion of Arnold, the best way to retain clients and avoid obsolescence is to first identify your client’s needs. You can then use this information to meet those needs in a targeted way, be that through technology or otherwise.