Shared Expectations: Enabling, Transforming and Accelerating Relationships for the Legal Profession

Shared Expectations: Enabling, Transforming and Accelerating Relationships for the Legal Profession

The Challenge:

No matter how hard you try there is always room to improve your relationship with your clients. If the relationship is a new one there is a great deal to learn about the client and this takes (non-billable) time. Sometimes a current client will act as if they are not very satisfied with your work. Or the relationship may be just fine and both you and your client struggle with what is next to grow the relationship?

The current economic climate only magnifies this challenge of maintaining and improving client satisfaction and loyalty. And many clients are increasing their demands for value in the services provided by their legal advisors and are often more critical of services rendered. What worked two years ago to stay on top of a client relationship often does not work today. The result can be frustration, mistakes, and lost opportunities for additional business for you and disappointment for your clients.

You are not alone! Relationships between counsel and their corporate clients are challenging, complex, and require effort to maintain. Fortunately there is a very effective way to quickly focus on those aspects of the relationship that are critical to both you and your client and move forward to a more robust and profitable relationship. It is called Shared Expectations.

Shared Expectations

At the conclusion of a recent session the client thanked their team and the facilitator for a very successful session and then commented that: “This is probably the single most powerful tool a client and an account team can use to change the direction of their relationship.” And this has proven true time and time again over several hundred sessions, whether the relationship was good to begin with or was one the client and their team wanted to improve.

Shared Expectations is a structured program that assists a law firm and their clients to build a stronger relationship based on a mutual understanding of expectations and a common plan to exceed those expectations. This is accomplished through a facilitated dialogue in which a team outlines their expectations of one another and then collaboratively builds action plans to accomplish their desired outcomes. The Shared Expectations session is an investment in the future of the relationship and requires a shared commitment to open dialogue, joint problem resolution, and continued partnering to achieve business goals. They enable, transform, and accelerate client relationships.

These facilitated five to six hour sessions involve:

  • an open, honest conversation
  • clear and effective communication of expectations and priorities to each other
  • an understanding of the current and desired levels of performance relative to the expectations and any gaps in performance   that exist
  • where gaps exist, development of a collaborative action plan, or “roadmap,” to close the gaps to meet and exceed expectations
  • a process for and a commitment to regular reviews of progress in meeting expectations

Most sessions involve a working lunch and include eight to fourteen participants.

Outcome and Benefits

The most significant outcome of a session is a more robust, open client relationship based on a clear understanding of the client’s priorities and business goals coupled with a jointly-developed plan to effectively support those priorities and goals. The plan enables you to focus on what is important to your client and support them more effectively. Teams also develop measures of “success” and a process for evaluating the effectiveness of the relationship on a regular basis thus ensuring “success.” The facilitator is responsible for compiling the session notes – usually 8 to 10 pages – for all participants as a record.

Other benefits teams will highlight from their sessions:

  • Increased revenue
  • Improved client satisfaction
  • More effective communication and clarity of priorities and process (less “hassle”)
  • A proactive relationship where planning occurs on a regular basis resulting in a solid book of future business

In sum these sessions are substantial, productive efforts that produce significant and lasting results; that truly change   relationships!

They are not:

  • Finger pointing and yelling sessions but collaborative, proactive, structured events focused on moving a relationship forward
  • Focused on problems, but on learning from past challenges and improving the relationship, processes, and communication
  • A warm, fuzzy, cookie cutter approach. The sessions are tailored to the needs of each client and situation in order to produce   maximum benefits
  • A one-time event. The dialogue that begins in a session becomes the way to communicate on a regular basis

The process works in a wide range of circumstances between a law firm and their clients, or with internal groups, and is successful   for two basic reasons:

  • First, it is a collaborative process that very effectively leverages a team’s need and desire to work together. This ensures a high   degree of commitment to follow-through and success.
  • Second, the structure assures that participants focus on their goals in working together and their needs in the relationship,   rather than rehashing the past. It provides a robust, efficient process to build a concrete plan to move forward together

Process Steps:

  1. Session planning: One or more short planning meetings with you to understand your goals for a session and to answer any questions you might have. Determine whether a call with the client is appropriate prior to the session. Finalize schedule, attendees, location, and other logistics.
  2. The session itself: Usually five to six hours – including a working lunch – of engaged, productive   conversation about what is important and a plan to make sure it happens.
  3. Session Follow-up: Six to eight weeks after a session the facilitator will hold a 30 minute call with the two key participants to get feedback on their progress, discuss   any new challenges, and seek comments about the session. Also discuss   the need for an additional session in the future (many teams build additional sessions into their action plan).

For more information about Shared Expectations read the Wolf in the Workplace Legal article titled Transforming Relationships; Exceeding Client Expectations.


The Shared Expectations   process has significantly improved business relationships around the   world. Over one-third of the Fortune 100 have used the process, often   several times. It creates lasting, successful business relationships   that drive business results.

Why not let it change your client relationships too?



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