At a recent presentation I made, the audience fed back pressing concerns that were impacting their firm’s ability to extend their relationships with clients.

One attendee mentioned what I’ll call “client abandonment” – and this was recognised throughout the room as an issue. Put simply, its where those with client relationships “move on”, either because of pressing transactional work, greater demands from other clients, lack of appetite, a new job or even retirement.

Ongoing dialogue with these clients – who may have significant needs for advise – either doesn’t exist or dries up.  This was felt to be a big problem. If this issue exists in your firm, here are some initial bullet points on how to reduce its impact.

  • Think about using a “grid” mapping clients against currently used specialisms, to identify clients where there appears to be potential to extend the relationship. Prioritise “anti-abandonment” efforts with these and put responsibilities in place.
  • Utilise more junior fee earners as “second line relationship point people” for those relationships which may otherwise be abandoned. Those with an aspiration to become partners within the short-medium term often have good appetite to do this, and can be coached in relationship skills and behaviour.
  • Use your existing systems to set up “alerts” where a client hasn’t instructed you for a suitable period (6 months, 12 months etc. as appropriate).  Consider what process for contact – and who makes contact – will work for you and the client
  • Use your feedback processes to ask clients how they would like to be communicated to. You can then focus efforts on the most relevant activities for each client, and reduce wasted effort. By being able to communicate with more clients, fewer will be at risk of abandonment.
  • Extend the concept of “succession planning”. Of course, undertake it when a key client partner is known to be retiring in the near future. But can you extend it to a discussion with partners about “those clients which you just haven’t had the time to contact…”. Some will of course be resistant, but any agreement on clients and succession to another fee earner or marketing responsibility reduces the risk of lost revenue…
  • Ensure seminar and other activities are not only used to impart knowledge but as an opportunity to catch up with any client that attends, and build wider communication channels than just “one partner”.

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