Why collaboration is (usually) doomed to fail — and how to buck the odds

By Jen Dezso, Acritas US, VP

The economics are straightforward: Those law firms that are able to serve corporate legal buyers in more work types and across more geographic areas can substantially increase their share of client legal spend.

Integration is a business essential, not a nice-to-have

When five or more of a law firm’s offices are used by a single client, the law firm can expect to receive 33% more of that client’s legal spend. However, few law firms realize financial benefits of this magnitude.

The typical large law firm has roughly 21 different office locations; however, a large corporate client only works with an average of three of their primary law firm’s offices. This suggests that few law firms have cracked the code to successfully institutionalize their largest clients.

Incentive or culture? What’s the top barrier to integration?

Firms have long struggled to create an internal culture of integration and collaboration. Despite the boost in client spending when working across practices and offices, internal collaboration among firm lawyers in different practices or geographies remains the exception. Law firm lawyers say, on average, that they collaborate with lawyers outside their own practice area on only 40% of matters.

Indeed, lawyers tell us that the biggest barrier to collaboration is simply a lack of incentive to do so. Only 50% of lawyers say their firm includes collaboration in their compensation review. Yet, a full 70% of lawyers say they want collaboration included in how their compensation is set. Clearly, the willingness to collaborate is present.

Inconsistency undermines integration efforts

Even if a law firm can successfully build out their client relationships across different practices, work streams, and geographies, a new challenge waits to be tackled: ensuring a superior client experience.

However, perceptions of firm-wide consistency typically drop as the number of offices a client interacts with rises, according to Acritas’ research conducted with legal buyers. This underpins the importance of managing client relationships from a holistic perspective as those relationships begin to grow.

Unfortunately, these perceptions of inconsistency can erode a client’s trust in a law firm and can negatively impact how the firm is rated in service, value, quality, and other critical client relationship key performance indicators.

Focus on the areas of greatest impact

There are six main factors that most influence a law firm’s ability to reach the ideal state of integration where both client spending and the overall client experience are above average, according to Acritas’ research. Interestingly, the firms that are most successful at integration apply these six factors differently to their internal and external relationships. Indeed, no two firms have the same secret recipe.

The findings from this research make one reality clear: successful integration requires that law firms have a deep understanding of both their lawyers as well as the clients they serve.

For more information on this and other insights we’ve gained through our most recent study of stand-out talent please contact us.

You can also download the recent report, Stellar Performance: A Survey of Stand-Out Talent Report 2020 here.

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