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Law firms neglect the C-suite at their peril

Law firms neglect the C-suite at their peril continues a series of posts based on data in recent beaton evidence-based reports on ROI opportunities for professional services firms investing in Client eXperience (CX) programs.

One of the many insights in these reports for all professions is evidence that 'increasing excellent CX and avoiding poor CX unequivocally support profitable growth'. This post asks what it takes for a law firm to ensure every senior manager in their client feels first-class CX? If you're not au fait with the concept of CX, please check out reference (1) below.

This chart summarises an important finding for law firms: Once a matter progresses beyond the Onboarding and scoping phase, C-suite CX deteriorates compared to the Legal department.

Bluntly put, this suggests, 'Now we've started on the matter, all we need to do is work with the in-house lawyers'.

This is the reason the sidebar on the chart asks 'Who loses?' when those in the C-suite are neglected relative to those in the Legal department. Our answer is this: Both the members of the C-suite and the law firm are the losers.

Given their necessary interest and the roles they play in major transactions, C-suite members need to be engaged and feel involved in the progress of matters – in ways that suit them. The lower CX scores these managers report indicates they feel this is not sufficiently the case. Evidence from our studies of individual law firms in the beatonbenchmarks surveys corroborates the truth of this statement.

And, self-evidently, law firms are losers because they are not maximising their opportunities for future work and referrals if they lose focus on the CX of the C-suite during and following a significant transaction.

Both lose.

This raises a critical question, how does a law firm best maintain relationships with members of the C-suite separately from a specific matter? We observe law firm leadership more often than not pursue the usual mix of digital updates, seminar invitations, social events and so on, COVID-19 restrictions aside.

The key is for individual partners to engage with their C-Suite relationships with the express purpose of determining how they can be of most value to the CEO, CFO, COO, CRO, etc when there is no particular transaction afoot. Partners need to demonstrate a genuine curiosity and empathy, be prepared to invest their time, and customise the activities of their firm to align with the specific needs of their C-suite relationships.

More information about this CX report can be found here. If you would like to start a conversation about any aspect of your firm’s CX program, please do contact a beaton partner. There's no obligation.

The authors

Paul is a Sydney-based beaton partner, before which for many years he was Chief Marketing Officer and held other client-facing in Hebert Smith Freehills. Paul has direct experience of the benefits of coaching law firm partners to engage with the C-suite through all phases of the CX cycle.

Shanan is a Senior Researcher and the Operations Manager of beaton. Shanan leads leads our beatoncompass products and services.

How the research was done

The data in this post was sourced by online survey from a representative sample of the clients of larger corporate and commercial law firms in Australia and New Zealand in late 2019-early 2020.

Our blog Research. Reveal. has lots more on this topic

(1) Why CX matters so much in professional services

(2) The CX Report: Clear ROI and some unexpected implications

(3) Client eXperience in Consulting Engineering: A major opportunity, especially now

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