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Can a Chief Client Officer Add Value to Your Firm? Roles, Results & Roadblocks

Business Development Inc.
In recent years, there has been significant growth in the number of dedicated “Chief Client Officer” or “Chief Client Service Officer” (CCSO)-related positions within leading law firms. To date, approximately 35 of the top 500 law firms have a full-time, in-house, dedicated CCSO professional.* Titles of these professionals within the world’s largest law firms vary, as do their responsibilities, but related titles include Chief Client Officer, Chief Client Relations Officer, Chief Client Experience Officer, Chief Client Value Officer, Chief Client Ambassador, and, as referenced above, Chief Client Service Officer. Some firms have a Director and/or Manager employed in similar roles.
Many CCSOs are lawyers or experienced professionals with former law practice or in-house counsel experience, as well as significant business experience. This background helps shift the law firm culture from one with an internal focus to one that is more client facing and market driven. Cole Silver, who serves as Chief Client Officer at Blank Rome, says, “Because I have served as a law firm owner and former general counsel for over 25 years, my main contribution is bringing client centricity and the ‘voice of the client’ to firm pitches, marketing, strategy, business development, and the overall client experience. Our firm’s primary objective is to provide clients with a level of service second to none, and my role helps get that done.”
With billable time demands being a reality for most outside lawyers, helping lawyers see and work past their own agendas is often an integral part of a CCSO’s job. The compensation and origination systems used by many law firms can be hurdles to the success of a dedicated CCSO. Law firms that operate in a truly collaborative, collegial culture and allow for shared-origination credit tend to have greater success with CCSOs. Firms with “one-touch” or “grandfathered” origination credit schemes can encourage client hoarding and inhibit collaboration on many levels. According to Cole Silver, “The ‘ownership’ of a client by an individual lawyer can be the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ that can stonewall collaboration, shared compensation, and organizational alignment.”
"Can a Chief Client Officer Add Value to Your Firm? Roles, Results & Roadblocks," by Julie Savarino was published in Business Development Inc. on April 25, 2019.