In a recent webinar we discussed with law firm sector experts how their firms make sector focus work and why so many firms struggle to leverage this approach effectively. Sectors are the vogue: most law firms now claim to have a sector strategy. Most of these firms are hoping that a sector focus will help equip them for the new and uncertain climate. But what makes a sector-based approach effective and how do firms achieve a return on their investment? Most critically, how can they be sure the effort filters through to clients?
Ranjit Dhillon explained how vital it is at DLA that sectors form a core part of the firm’s strategy. We have seen clearly in our Acritas research that an effective sector strategy can take a firm from good to best in class. Informed by over 10,000 senior in-house buyers and over 15,000 outstanding lawyers, we have found that the firms who excel with sector strategy are more likely to be recommended and capture a greater share of clients’ legal spend. But how can firms make sure they fit into this category and, more importantly, stay there?
One of the key takeaways from our webinar was the importance of getting the firm on board! If partners and other key stakeholders understand why a sector-based approach matters, and how it relates to their own performance evaluation; they will be more committed and more likely to talk about the approach with clients. It’s important that this approach draws in everyone at the firm, from marketing and BD through to junior associates, from IT to leadership. Client teams will often be the means of drawing this together and connecting sector expertise with client specific issues. When the whole firm understands what can be brought to the table from an industry perspective, it’s easier to identify exciting opportunities in practice areas you didn’t even know your clients had a need in!
When buyers talk about the skills they look for in their counsel, industry understanding is one of the key differentiators. It is now an expectation that lawyers have a real understanding of their client’s business. This kind of change requires both structural and cultural evolution: Alyssa Auberger from Baker McKenzie spoke about getting the message across by enabling the firm to operate as a matrix, where sector groups work alongside practice groups and offices. This type of integration gives the greatest scope for transforming processes at every level and cultivates a culture that enables best performance. Erin Mezsaros at Eversheds Sutherland expanded on this and suggested that getting sector groups to operate with practice groups can be enabled by getting client partners and client teams to sit at the nexus of the two. In this role, client teams drive collaboration, accountability and enhance client experience.
The benefits of having a sector-based approach are well-documented and, as COVID-19 and other global issues exacerbate pain-points in specific industries, there has never been a better time to refocus your firm’s lens. Firms with a successful sector strategy will demonstrate better value add to clients and position themselves well to capture new business. In a crisis, clients want digestible advice and they need it to be easily accessible. The firms that get this right will have more opportunity to get closer to the strategic heart of the business; and take another step towards gaining that ever-coveted trusted advisor status.
Steve Blundell – Head of Acritas Advisors, Thomson Reuters
David Johnson – Account Director, Thomson Reuters
Alyssa Auberger – Partner and Global Chair, Consumer Goods & Retail Industry Group, Baker McKenzie
Erin Meszaros – Chief Business Development and Client Service Officer, Eversheds Sutherland
Ranjit Dhillon – Head of Marketing & BD - Practice Groups & Sectors, DLA Piper