YourABA December 2012 Masthead

6 missed opportunities and how
to avoid them

Mark Kosminskas has spent half of his career as a consumer of legal services and the other half as a lawyer. As a client, he has had to manage “lawyers as vendors” and says in a recent issue of Business Law Today that “as much as they claim otherwise, lawyers routinely muff opportunities to ingratiate themselves to their clients.”

Kosminskas, senior vice president of MB Financial Bank in Rosemont, Ill., shares some common ways lawyers blow opportunities with clients and how they can avoid doing so.

  • Botching first impressions. Firms often deliver a product that is not according to spec. The document may even contain typos or other errors that show it was not proofread. Be careful with the first matter. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure the first document is perfect.
  • Going dark. “We all understand that people are busy, but it is disconcerting to have a lawyer seem to disappear off the planet when a quick email or text message will suffice,” Kosminskas says. “I work with several law firms and consulting firms that almost always provide same-day responsiveness, even if it is to drop a call, text or email late at night to let me know that they received my message and let me know when they can respond.”
  • Being a pest. Don’t presume that lengthy lunches or golf games are the best way to build client relationships. Clients often don’t have that much time to give to their counsel. Be careful about imposing on the time of others and calibrating the right activity with the right person.
  • Misunderstanding value-added service. The value of a lawyer’s services will usually be judged by the client’s employees with whom the lawyer is working. Their perception of value can be increased if the lawyer helps those individuals look good. “Great lawyers help those individuals make good decisions by appropriately framing up risks and choices, and helping them make an accurate assessment of the probabilities of certain outcomes,” Kosminskas says. “They help prevent the client from making disastrous decisions and make good decisions turn into great decisions.”

    Don’t reduce the value of your service with superfluous memos that appear to cover a law firm’s risk, not the client’s, and investigations into risk launched without the client’s knowledge, Kosminskas says.
  • Sending wordy communications. “A bullet-point summary keeps focus on the core issues,” Kosminskas says. “Too often, I receive lengthy briefs or documents with the missive, ‘Please see attached.’ Be a lawyer and not simply an email forward service.”

    One of the most important functions is to summarize detail and tease out key points that require decisions, he says. “Additionally, clients now review communications via BlackBerry or iPhone on the go, so a cover email summarizing the important issues can be an extremely efficient tool to get matters resolved quickly.”
  • Billing. Kosminskas names a few irritants: charging for secretarial overtime, unnecessary overnight delivery charges (email and PDFs have largely done away with that) and time descriptions that do not justify the time billed. “For instance, I recently saw a bill with eight total hours for a simple promisory note with revisions,” he says. (For more information on billing, see “Best billing practices” in this issue of YourABA.)

Read this article in its entirety here. Business Law Today is published by the ABA Business Law Section

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