Clients repeatedly tell law firms that they are not satisfied. I am confident many law firm leaders don’t hear the word “not”  in the sentence. If they did, their firm might do something about it.

I contend the best way to have satisfied clients is to hire and develop satisfied lawyers. You know, the lawyers who enjoy their work, want to help their clients and want to develop their skills. My theory is supported by the research on this topic.

David Maister, in his book Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture provides powerful evidence that for a professional service firm to be successful it must train, energize and excite its people.

If that occurs, then the quality of work and service will be better and if that occurs, the firm will be more successful.

Maister asserts that employee satisfaction is driven by high standards, coaching and empowerment.

Maister’s findings are consistent with conclusions by Jay W. Lorsch and Thomas J. Tierney in their book Aligning the Stars. They assert that although rainmakers have been recognized and valued in firms for years, starmaking is more important to a firm’s long term success than rainmaking.

The people you pay are more important over time than the people who pay you. Why? Talent is a professional firm’s only sustainable source of competitive advantage.

While law firms go to great lengths to understand their clients’ needs, Lorsch and Tierney ask how well law firms really understand their associates’ needs.

They believe you should apply the same talent you use to understand your clients’ needs to understanding your associates’ needs.

Then, they outline that most young professionals want:

  • to learn;
  • career options;
  • affiliation and teamwork;
  • autonomy; and
  • flexibility to better balance their professional and personal lives.