Is Your Firm Like the Ritz-Carlton?

“Just suppose . . . Just suppose you are the gold standard for client service in the legal industry – you are the best. What would it look like and what would you do differently?” This was the question posed by lawyer-turned-client-development-training-leader Cordell Parvin at a recent panel discussion, part of a business development series for lawyers, and covered by Deborah McMurray in her Law Firm 4.0 Blog.  Also on panel was someone who knows quite a bit about the gold standard – Alexandra Valentin, Corporate Director of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. If it seems irrelevant to look to the hospitality industry for counsel on how to build a stand-out law firm, think again. As we’ve discussed in various ways in the past, what sets any law firm apart from the competition is indeed how it serves its clients – though, surprisingly, only 60 of the AmLaw 200 law firms include the word service anywhere on their websites, according to Parvin.

Exceptional client service doesn’t just happen magically; it is an outgrowth of organizational culture and internal behavior. In the case of Ritz-Carlton, daily meetings reinforce aspects of the company’s culture, so they are unforgettable. Achievements and positive reviews are celebrated, and problems are solved by analyzing the breakdown in the system that led to the failure, not by placing blame. The idea is that the employees are clients of each other. The company’s culture and how its employees work together internally ultimately have a profound effect on the client experience. All of this is applicable within a law firm setting. In a sense it’s the triple bottom line concept we’ve touched on previously. If we create a positive culture within our organization and do well by our colleagues and employees, it will not only benefit them, but it will affect our bottom line and profits by affecting our clients. There’s no downside.

What do you think? Is your firm culture service-oriented around both employees and clients? How has that impacted its success?