Asked and AnsweredBy John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMCQ. Our firm, a 22 attorney law firm in Chicago, has been contemplating acquiring a 6 attorney firm in the suburbs. We believe we have done an adequate job of due diligence regarding financials, people, culture, systems, and practice-mix compatibility. Our concern is client retention. What are your thoughts concerning how we can determine if the clients will stay with us?A. Why not ask the clients?Much can be learned by talking to the firm's clients. Structured telephone interviews and other forms of surveys conducted by a neutral third party can uncover many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction surveys can be one of the best due diligence tools that you can use.It is good business practice to see how clients might react to a acquisition or merger. Understanding where your prospective firm's clients stand and how they feel about service quality can be one of the most valuable inputs into your due diligence process that you can get your hands on. Finding out where your prospective firm's clients stand can tell you a lot about their future retention.Before you invest significant time, money, or effort in developing an overall acquision/merger implementation strategy, survey your prospective firm's clients to understand where their clients stand. You must be careful using this approach and insure that it is done with the permission and in concert with the prospective firm. The approach must be setup, communicated and coordinated properly. It must be sensitive to clients and done in a way to communicate and reinforce positive rather than negative signals to the clients involved.