Clients come to law firms because they need help finding and implementing solutions – each employee is in essence a legal solution provider and a problem solver. And in a crowded and the unpredictable business climate of today, it is more important than ever to embrace and anticipate changes to meet the shifting needs of clients. Most importantly, we always need to put our clients first and ensure that every employee embraces a client-centric mindset.

Being a great lawyer doesn’t guarantee you a solid book of business anymore. Neither does having a law degree from one of the top schools in the country. None of these fancy credentials matter if you don’t have the right people skills (or emotional intelligence) to connect with clients on a personal level, especially now. 

Because clients regularly hire outside counsel who they’ve known for many years – from law school, a prior firm, a friend of a friend or a past matter – cultivating relationships should be at the heart of everything you do – especially now. It’s important to treat everyone with whom you come into contact as if they could be a future client or referral source, which is a helpful guiding principle in how to interact with your professional network.

Here’s how to develop a more client-centric mindset and build stronger relationships despite the barriers we are facing today during this worldwide pandemic.

  • Start off each week with a big picture look at what you want to accomplish in business development. Avoid placing too many things on the “If I have time I will…” list. Consider blocking out an hour in your calendar at the beginning of the day.
  • Invest in clients and get to know them on a personal level – ask them how they are doing during this stressful time. Regularly ask clients about their business goals, be attuned to their needs and then develop solutions to meet those needs.
  • Learn about the companies, businesses and industries of important clients inside and out in your free time. What challenges and opportunities are they facing? How can you help them with these? Delving into these areas will enable you to better anticipate their needs and be a smarter legal solution provider.
  • Volunteer for opportunities. Whether it’s writing, speaking or volunteering for a committee, raise your hand and ask for what you want. Since so many event organizers have cancelled major conferences, offer your help in giving a virtual program.
  • Offer your clients virtual education. You can host webinars, podcasts or schedule a weekly COVID-19 briefing call. I’m seeing a few firms organize these types of meetups that are open to anyone and focus on coronavirus-related updates. Davis Polk makes their previous calls available to listen to at a later date.
  • Connect electronically. As we must socially distance, online networking is crucial. LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for relationship building. Spend the time to develop a strong LinkedIn profile that highlights your professional attributes and background.
  • Engage on social media. Having a strong LinkedIn profile is the first step, but regularly liking, sharing and posting value-added content is how to effectively use social media. Use LinkedIn to reconnect with contacts and to keep abreast of job moves and professional milestones of important contacts.
  • Frequently follow up with important contacts by sending them value-added content (such as a client alert, blog post, video or podcast) with a personal note. You don’t have to be the author of the content – consider sharing some of your colleagues’ work.
  • Add value by connecting people who can create value for each other. One of the best ways to build relationships is by linking people to each other, so consider bringing several clients/potential clients together via Zoom meetups. They will appreciate you for introducing them, and you will strengthen your relationship to all of them in the process, which is a win-win for everyone.
  • And perhaps most importantly, regularly ask clients how you’re doing and what you could be doing better/differently. Many lawyers don’t open the door to feedback because they’re afraid of what they might hear, which is a huge mistake. An even bigger mistake is asking for feedback and not acting on it, so always follow through.

Clients are seeking outside counsel who they can call on for thoughtful quick answers, who really understand their business and anticipates their needs. They want not just a lawyer, but a business advisor. They also want to know that you consider their business and legal issues to be of the utmost importance and that you will be a fierce advocate for them.

All that being said, you can be the best lawyer in your area of the law, but if no one enjoys working with you or you are considered to be a difficult person, you will not be as successful as you could be.

Law is first and foremost a relationship business and this is why it’s so important to demonstrate client care and cultivate and nurture relationships throughout your career.