A key to becoming a superstar associate

Superstar associates say that, despite popular belief, being successful is not dependent on working hard, establishing that one can handle as much responsibility as is thrown at them, having high levels of enthusiasm, or cultivating mentors. While certainly helpful, top performing associates do not credit any of these items as necessary for their success.

So, to what do superstar associates who consistently achieve high levels of success credit their success? Exceptional client (and partner) service. Throughout this post, client should be substituted for partner for associates working in law firms who may not consistently deal with outside clients.

And there seems to be a consensus that, at a minimum, these three items contribute to the production of exceptional service:

  1. becoming an expert in the client, including deeply understanding the client’s challenges (professional and personal), aspirations, and needs;
  2. solving current legal issues while taking into account client preferences; and
  3. anticipating future issues and providing solutions.

Deeply understanding the client’s challenges

Successful associates take certain steps to understand the client’s “pain” as they refer to it in the sales and marketing world – the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. For example, they make it a point to learn the history and culture of the client, including the current and former principals of the business and their personalities and interests. In addition, when possible, they gather information on the client’s industry, its competitors, and threats by attending industry conferences and relevant panel presentations. And sometimes, they get their hands dirty by visiting the client (even if at their own expense) to see how the client’s product is made or their service is provided.

Solving current legal issues with an accommodation to the client’s preferences

Successful associates strive to serve the heck out of clients in the way they want to be served. This means providing solutions that are tailor-made to the client and takes into account, not only its industry, market, financial, and other objectives, as mentioned above, but also (and perhaps most importantly), its quirky preferences.

To effectuate this level of service, these associates confirm their clients’ goals before beginning work on a project rather than assuming they know what the client is looking for, even if it seems obvious. So, they understand what a “win” is from the client’s perspective. As such they are seen as creative and efficient because they accommodate the client in various ways and understand that the client’s preferences as far as timing, budget, and other considerations may dictate a preference for certain outcomes.

They also communicate their status and ultimate results to the client in a manner and format in which the client can understand and relate. For example, these associates get that some clients want to get in the weeds but that most do not. They understand that some clients prefer e-mails, some prefer face to face, and others prefer phone calls and it all likely depends on the matter and current client circumstances.

Anticipating future potential issues and provide solutions

Successful associates, on their own initiative, keep up with the changing business (and therefore legal) needs of the client. They accomplish this objective in a number of ways. As an example, they may monitor Federal and State congressional action (or possible action) and court cases that could affect the client and/or its industry. In addition, they may monitor the activity and challenges of the client’s competition.

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