“I do not want to work with you to select the words, develop the structure of a paragraph—or document—for that matter. What I want is a thoughtful piece where—if I choose—I can add insight or new thinking. Do not send me your draft documents.
I don't care if you stamp it with a draft stamp or if you are using the document to just share your thoughts. Send me a finished document. If you want to brainstorm and conceptualize, call me or let's meet—don't make me review your unpolished document. It is an utter waste of my time—and don't send any to my staff either!”
So says the EVP and General Counsel of a newly spun off hospitality company with more than 11,000 employees (Company H) during an in-depth client interview. This expressive client was offering advice as to how his primary law firm (Law Firm Z)—a 700-lawyer firm who hired BTI to conduct client feedback interviews—can improve their client service performance.
Clearly, we hit a nerve. The previous 42 minutes of this interview were a bit more balanced, offering insightful feedback our client could immediately use to improve their performance—and included new business opportunities. We spoke with the EVP for the last of the 4 interviews we conducted at Company H—to help put the preceding feedback in perspective. As you can see above the EVP closed out our session with a crescendo and a plea.
His comments and emotion illustrate how the documents had become the thorn in the foot of a very important decision maker. He went on to say he “mentally cringes when he receives these documents.”
Company H spends more than $40 million on outside counsel.
Why They Were Losing Business
Earlier, in the interviews with the direct reports, each individual gave Law Firm Z lower scores on legal skills and quality than competitors. Not by much—but any lower score is cause for immediate concern. We now had the root cause—this client didn't like Law Firm Z’s documents—as in deliverables. This issue was hurting business and preventing our client from getting the prime new matters.
Law Firm Z had unmatched understanding of this client’s business and worked with them as they were spun off from their former parent company. But the basics had gone astray.
Unpolished and rough documents make your client’s life more difficult. Your clients believe they are paying top dollar for top talent to produce top quality work. Clients want to take your work and add substantive value—not bring it up to a baseline minimum standard. And, every client has a different standard as to what is finished and what is not. So learning your client’s standards and expectations is a critical success factor here.
The Genius in the Solution
After receiving the feedback Law Firm Z set up a training program for every timekeeper working on Company H matters to improve writing skills and set standards for client delivery. The firm used an outside consultant to design most of the program but the genius lies in inviting Company H’s EVP to be part of the program. This client now had direct input into the writing style and protocols and ended up answering countless questions about his business—which he loved.
The early after-matter assessment shows increases in legal skills and quality, and the relationship partner reports more and better access to the EVP. Most importantly, the client reports he no longer cringes when receiving documents, but smiles and thinks of the training.