Managing Key Clients by Kevin Walker with Paul Denvir and Cliff Ferguson, published by Continuum Publishers ISBN 0826447104

THEY are every law firm’s dream – loyal clients who continue to provide them with work at good rates, who include them in their thinking when new areas of work arise and pay their bills without protest. In today’s intensely competitive market, realising that dream is more and more pressing. Yet according to the main author of this volume, the skill of good client management is an area neglected by many professional services firms. Lawyers are no exception.

Any illusions you may have about your firm are quickly stripped away at the start of the book in the Key Client Management Health-check. See how closely your firm matches 60 glowing descriptions, including: “Our professional staff are really inquisitive. They love to really get inside their clients’ organisations and to understand their business in depth.”

With that painful part over, it is time to learn the fundamentals of effective client management. There is no room for mumbo jumbo “psycho think” here. Walker, Denvir and Ferguson are intensely practical and straight to the point.

They acknowledge that practices and processes for managing high value clients have been defined before, they are relevant and practical and are supported by the latest technology. What is missing, say these experts, is the will and motivation to put them into practice.

Chapter 1: Finding the Motivation, addresses that problem and points to leadership as the key to changing the way a firm looks after its clients. “The recognition that key client management is an essential element of the future of the business must be made by a person who is at the top – or very close to the top – of the firm.”

Individual professionals are also catered for. Each chapter ends with a brief section on “First Steps”, aimed at any professional who wants to improve their way of handling clients.

The book offers a menu of initiatives to choose from. Themes from the authors’ first book, Creating New Clients, are developed and new concepts for sustaining strong relationships introduced. The book takes readers through setting and meeting client expectations, marketing, and selling and cross-selling, before offering a structured but flexible approach to key client planning.

If the challenge seems daunting, take heart with the book’s advice that progress should be gradual. Trying to introduce a host of new and additional ways of working simultaneously will burden staff and lead to revolt against the new regime. “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: piece by piece,” say the authors. For those who take up the challenge, the rewards will be worth the long haul. “Our clients will get better when we do.” It is a message no forward-looking firm can afford to ignore.