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January 27, 2006

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Peter A. Johnson, Esq.

At the risk of appearing to self promote, I thought I would clarify and emphasize some of the comments recently made by Jim Hassett in referring to my conversation with him and my article about client interviews. I am passionate about the importance of meeting with the client and "bringing the voice of the client into the firm."

Start with the end in mind-- if there is no commitment to follow up and respond to the client comments, don't do the interview. You don't have to agree, but you do have to recognize the comments/suggestions.

Survey vs. Face-to-face--Although many report the success of written surveys, I am bias against them, particularly for your "page one" clients. I once interviewed a client who was critical of a form survey he received form a law firm the company was using. "My company gives them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal work each year and the best they can do is send me a form asking me to rate them 1-10 in various categories?"

Whoever meets with the clients, make sure they have the right skills. My preference is to have outside consultants meet with the key clients, but regardless of who does the interview he/she must have the skills necessary to build rapport and to elicit relevant and helpful information. Hiring someone to read a questionnaire and take notes is a waste of money. Determine how your client will respond to the person meeting with them.

Research and Preparation--Too often interviewers are not prepared and have not invested sufficient time in learning about the relationship. Have they spoken to all the attorneys AND support staff who have worked with the client, or do they merely rely on what the relationship attorney has said? Do they know the client's business sufficiently to make the interview more relevant?

Conducting an interview is like conducting a friendly deposition--preparation and research is as important as the meeting!

Some random thoughts on a Sunday without the NFL football.

Peter

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