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BURNETT: We try to accommodate a variety of different compensation packages also, which allows us to retain certain people who normally would not be willing to work on a full-time basis. We found that gives us an opportunity to experience people who normally wouldn’t be with us and who have a desire to do other things in life besides work.
ANDERSON: From the get-go, we’ve had flex compensation. So you can make pretty much as much as you want. It’s your choice. And really, some people are very happy. They say, “No. I can live just fine on this. I enjoy being at my kids’ school programs and I enjoy going on a vacation with my family.” Other people who really want more money feel that they can adjust.
How do we build client loyalty, and how are clients responding to the concept of the part-time lawyer, the flex-schedule lawyer, the associate who isn’t always available?
ANDERSON: If the associate’s not available, the shareholder or partner better be available. I don’t think clients understand a flex schedule at all. They deal with a 24/7, 365-day world, and they expect you to as well. They come to me and I’ll manage the resources of the associates. And if there’s an associate or other partner that’s on a flex schedule, I’ll deal with that.
I view technology as an advantage in taking care of those things while I’m away from the office or with my family. I work from home probably two or three days a week because I have that flexibility now and the resources to deal with client issues.
The loyalty issue is a little bit tougher. There really is no loyalty, like there used to be when I first started, between a client and a law firm. I’ll tell my partners and the associates, “You have to earn and build that loyalty every day.” That’s something that we work on. You take an interest in their business, you stay involved in the industry that they’re in and try to learn about it. Your best client is the one that you have to market to the most. You can’t rely on them to just be there.
POS: One thing we’ve done to enhance client relationships is create a lot of relationship agreements. Our associates and some of our partners will go in-house for six months to a year with a client. And we also offer the reverse, where their in-house lawyers come and work for our firm for a time. It comes with other types of arrangements, discounted rates and the training that we do—lunch-hour training, after-hour training. We’re doing more and more sharing of our lawyers with the client, where they actually report to the client’s office every morning instead of our office.
TOMSIC: We really try to instill in all the lawyers in our office that client loyalty really is driven by your response time. If a client has an issue—even if it’s, from our perspective, a ridiculous or annoying issue—you need to instantly get back to them so they know that they matter to you.
We always have a partner on e-mail—because that’s really how we communicate most of the time with our clients—so that somebody is always available, whether it’s the associate or the partner, so that a client instantly gets a response.
CATAXINOS: With technology, that type of response time is an expectation now.
HARMAN: We give our cell phone number right up front. I think clients appreciate that. It takes effort. That’s one of the things that we found, particularly with clients that aren’t here locally. It means lots of plane rides. Lots of non-billable time. It takes some face time when you’ve got clients that are around the country. It’s not quite as easy as it used to be to keep that relationship. At the end of the day, that’s what they are—relationships.
What’s the difference in building loyalty with a litigation client versus building loyalty with a transactional client?
GAYLORD: The difference is a lot of times the litigation client is a one-time client, unless you have a big client who’s going to come back day after day, week after week with a potential case. Salt Lake is unique in that they don’t have a large national practice group. So you end up having a client who comes in the door, they’ve got one problem, and that litigation is the only major litigation they’ve had or may ever have.
TOMSIC: Even if you get a client who is a one-time case or a one-time litigation problem, if you do a great job for that client and you instill loyalty in them, they are going to recommend you to other people they know. Almost all of my business comes from referrals from other clients. It is incredibly important to build up loyalty, even on a one-time deal, because it spreads out into the community.