Customer Service 101: How to Keep Your Clients Happy, Part 4

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

We noted in the previous post why communication plays a vital role in keeping customers happy.

But if communications requires good people skills, the third “C”, creativity, requires good lawyer skills.  Clients are happy when you solve their problems.  When you’re solution oriented, not a “deal breaker.”  That’s hard to do when you don’t have experience in the area.  “There should be a nexus of some kind between your core practice and any supposedly ‘outside’ areas,” comments IP attorney Daniel Abraham.  “Otherwise, you’d better be armored against malpractice,” he adds.

Creativity is more than just “winging it.”  You have to know the rules before you can bend them.  This served Abraham exceptionally well when negotiating on behalf of a graphic artist client against a major pharmaceutical corporation.  “My client had been approached to design cartoon characters for an advertising campaign,” he related.  “The corporation proposed a relatively low buyout.  By intimately understanding the concept of ‘exclusivity,’ not to mention copyright laws and licensing, we had a huge win.  We retained significant ownership rights, secured additional payments, ensured name credit – that last piece alone led to several more significant clients for her.  Also, by knowing what the market would bear, the client received nearly three times the compensation originally proposed . . . yet relinquished far less.”  It helps to know the standards in your clients’ industries.  “When you know what trade custom generally doesn’t permit but occasionally happens (such as name credit), you have a better sense of what to hold onto and what to ultimately give away in a negotiation,” said Abraham.

Creativity also involves looking at what has been done successfully in other areas of law or business and seeing how they can be applied.  Magazines regularly feature “best practices” articles, which are worth investigating.  You might also learn from your own clients.  “We picked up the flat-fee pricing models of our own business clients and applied them to the pricing of certain projects of our own – such as partnership agreements, customer agreements, and business formation,” said Paltrowitz.  “We’ve had a terrific response, partly because we can quote a definite price.”  Networking with other lawyers (see Tip #8) is also a wonderful source of creative information.  Attorneys at larger firms have the benefit of in-house expertise.  But solo and small firm lawyers can create their own “external” brain trust for exchanging ideas and approaches.

How do you stay current in your area of focus?

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