03 December 2021

Post matter debriefs – the top five do’s and don’ts!


Petersen presents the five most important do's and don'ts in the debrief meeting

Any opportunity to engage with your client beyond the day-to-day interaction is a bonus. Inviting your client to participate in a post matter debrief is an invaluable way to seek their feedback of fee earners/your firm and importantly to gain insights about their business and challenges.

Set out below are the top five do’s to implement and suggested things not to do throughout a matter debrief process:



1. Spend time formulating your questions and consulting with the client team to ascertain what questions they would like to ask and what they think are some of the key issues that the client will want to address in the debrief meeting.

2. Have at least two people involved in the debrief meeting  - one to ask the questions (this could be a fee earner or someone from the business development team and the other to take notes). If practical, where you can consider including a junior fee earner or business development team member so that they can observe the debrief meeting. This is a great learning opportunity for them. 

3. Type and flesh out your notes asap following the meeting. In terms of structuring your notes, it is suggested that you document them as follows: 

a. include details of who attended and when and where the meeting took place;

b. a brief overview of the matter or transaction;

c. suggested solutions and next steps; and 

d. include the questions that you ask the client (a few suggestions are set out below) and the corresponding responses.

4. Share the information internally (subject to any confidentiality issues) including the positive or negative feedback with the relevant people within your organisation ie the client team, relevant partners and the business development and HR teams. Basically, anyone involved in the matter or anyone responsible for developing the client service skills within your organisation. It pays to prepare for these sessions. Delivering negative feedback, needs to be seen as an opportunity to improve and deliver a better client experience rather than a critique of an individual’s performance.


Post matter debriefs 2Source: Freepik


5. Commit to an ongoing client feedback programme within your organisation and devote the time and resources to it. This is vital, to become a truly client centric firm. However, only committ to this once your firm’s partners and employees have committed to changing their behaviours based on the feedback received. There is no surer way to annoy a client than by taking feedback and then not acting upon it.

If schedules allow, extend an invitation to your client to lunch (or coffee) following the debrief meeting so that you can get to know them further on a personal level. I was recently involved in a matter debrief with a client that had not met with the partner face to face in over 18 months and they welcomed the opportunity to follow the debrief meeting with a post matter celebratory lunch. It does take a strong client to deliver home truths and then move onto a “social” gathering

Outlined below are some suggested questions to frame your debrief conversation:

1. Why were we appointed on the matter/transaction/project?

2. What were the highlights/lowlights/areas of improvement? Taking into consideration expertise, client care, commerciality and price.

3. Do you have any specific feedback about x, y or x team member?

4. Is there anything that other firms do differently, which you prefer (ie other things preferred that we should consider and might improve our offering)?

5. What do you see as your future challenges or opportunities (distinguish between business and legal / opportunities in x market over the next 12-18 months)?

6. Are there any particular strategies that we should be across?

7. Is there anything else that we could do to support you/the business moving forward? 



1. Make it all about YOU! In a recent debrief session that I was involved in, the client had several issues that they wanted to discuss, particularly about how the other side and their lawyers conducted themselves throughout the matter and negotiation phases. The majority of the debrief session was taken up talking through these issues.

2. Lock the notes away and never refer to them again. Follow up with the client to thank them for participating in the process and outline any proposed actions or suggested solutions to any issues that were raised throughout the discussion.

3. Assume that the client will have participated in this type of feedback session previously. Explain how it will proceed and its significance as part of the client experience and your key account management programme.

4. Underestimate the amount of time it will take to prepare, document and share the information internally.

5. Put it off. Prioritise it even if you anticipate that the feedback may not be favourable. Tackle it head on, as the client will value the opportunity to discuss concerns or issues with you. The longer you leave something the harder it is for your busy clients to remember the details.



In my experience, I’ve not encountered a client who has declined the opportunity to engage in a debrief conversation. Invest the time and follow the suggested road map above and you won’t be disappointed. It really is a springboard for you to understand what you do well and what you can improve on. If you actively demonstrate your desire to continually improve, then your client will notice and really appreciate it. Conducting feedback sessions professionally and following up on the findings with determination and focus, is a big part of delivering an amazing client experience.

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