Nov/Dec 2001

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By Joy M. White

Richard G. Pepin, Jr., Service Is the Name of the Game

How does Rick Pepin ( sustain his strong client relationships? "Service is the name of the game and must be the standard against which all activities are measured," he says. "When we serve the client, its success is our success." Pepin specializes in commercial law in the Minneapolis office of 175-lawyer Leonard, Street and Deinard, a firm whose commitment to providing exceptional service is demonstrated in the Client Covenant on its Web site. "Business clients are essentially hiring a partner with a stake in their success," Pepin says, and a firm commits to that partnership by anticipating the client’s future. "Certainly it means a firm understand its market and where to add areas of expertise that will better serve clients. But it also means reconciling the traditional lawyer’s training (that lawyers are paid to have "the right" answers) with the business notion of ‘living with risk’ and acting on the risk." The lawyer-client relationship, of course, must work on a personal as well as a business level. And for Pepin, that is hardly work: "I enjoy people and am curious about who they are, what they think, how they feel and what they want to accomplish. It is my idea of fun."

Professional Life

Key Mission: Nurturing and encouraging open, trusting relationships with clients and within the firm, a need that grows exponentially as the firm grows.

Current Challenge: Building and maintaining client service teams that serve both the client’s business and the team members’ professional development. The crux of the service-team platform is having adequate areas of expertise and diversity to provide full, cost-effective service to clients.

Next Big Project: Relationship building among our TerraLex partners, a voluntary network of more than 140 independent law firms around the world. It’s astounding how, today, even relatively small enterprises have international issues.

Business Development Toolkit

Favorite Marketing Tool: A great law firm.

Top Tips for Winning Clients: As with every good Lutheran sermon, there are three points. Clients need to know that you are (1) competent, (2) available and (3) interested in them and their success.

Elements of Successful Lawyer-Client Relationships: Anticipating the client’s needs requires constant active listening, which leads to what I call "progressive revelation" of the next steps. In the end, put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask these questions: How would I like to be treated, what would I want to know, what would I think is good value and what would feel like help?

Key Trend Affecting Law Firm Marketing: Competition between law firms and with other professional service organizations requires a lawyer to think like a businessperson while serving as a professional—not an easy task. How can we deliver value, with predictable outcomes and costs, while being fairly compensated?

Balance Sheet

Educated At: University of Minnesota. Minnesota Law School (J.D.).

Pastimes: Music, golf and travel

Reality Anchors: My partner in life, my wife, Suzanne, and our three wonderful daughters.

Fantasy: Being the world’s oldest new jazz singer (with a 10 handicap).

Motto: If this were easy, everybody would be doing it!