Everyone knows that intense competition in the legal market is radically altering client/law firm relationships and that pressure on in-house counsel to become ever-more commercially minded and offer business-ready advice is altering what they need and expect of their law firms. So what does it mean to meet these value expectations to clients and how can this foster firm growth? On June 18th at Ark and Managing Partner’s Growth Strategies for Legal Services conference in London, Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO at Acritas led a discussion with Chris Aujard, Interim General Counsel at The Post Office, on ‘How general counsel are driving for greater value and efficiency’ and the growth opportunities available for law firms willing to align their strategies to clients’ evolving needs.
Eager to discover the reasons behind why some relationships flourish while others falter and fail, Acritas analyzed exclusive insight generated from interviewing more than 2,400 general counsel and senior legal buyers across a range of global markets. Delving into the candid views and experiences shared during those interviews reveals the secrets of how law firms can develop a successful growth strategy.
Over time, the reasons why clients are attracted to law firms have been shifting. Clients want their lawyers to take a more business-like and commercial approach to delivering advice, so they can quickly and effectively pass on the advice to their own internal clients.
A crucial success factor in developing effective growth strategies lies in aligning clients’ perceptions with the firm’s offering. There is little merit in positioning your firm as a specialist in X when the overwhelming market view is that you are Y. At the conference, Lisa confirmed that “A successful firm of the future will be one that aligns itself with each specific market it services and presents a relevant, tailored offering to clients”.
The discussion continued around the need for law firms to start asking their clients about their evolving in-house needs, goals and priorities, and responding to those findings. Chris Aujard, Interim General Counsel at The Post Office added during the session: “Lawyers should be more proactive in terms of developing client relations, aiming to understand goals and priorities of legal departments in greater depth to be able to offer genuinely commercial advice.”
Conclusion: Strategies based on scientific evidence succeed
Designing strategies around facts and real market trends removes risk and expensive misspending from decision making.
General counsel say that law firms rarely ask them about the internal structure of their legal department, its capabilities and pressure points, its budgeting and forecasting cycle. Yet, these factors dictate the external legal advice that the in-house legal team will need.
Getting a clear and accurate picture of what the legal department can and can’t do in-house and finding effective ways of ‘plugging the gaps’ by becoming an extension of the internal team is highly valued by general counsel and an effective approach for differentiating you from the competition.
In summary, law firms can derive great benefit from asking their clients more questions – about every aspect of their role, their department, their business, its needs, budgets and the financial constraints under which it is operating.
Probing effectively on what clients are saying can not only ensure that proposals are incisive and answer the real problems facing prospective clients, but can also reveal additional areas in which lawyers may be able to help.
The very act of taking the time and care to get to know a client in detail speaks volumes to the client about the approach as well as the level of service likely to be delivered by the firm, if appointed.
Once answers have been gathered, assimilating this data allows law firms to segment the approach taken to any particular matter for example customizing proposals to account for team size, financial factors, board priorities etc.
The key take-away had to be that law firms can be safe in the knowledge that few competitors will be taking such a scientific and highly client-focused approach, ensuring that those firms’ first interactions with a prospect make a lasting impression and lead to the type of mutually beneficial working relationships that law firm growth relies on.
Our aim is to narrow the gap between how clients are telling us the industry needs to change, and to support the game changers who are trying to get lawyers and their law firms to do things differently. To find out more please contact Jo Aitken, Client Development Director on +44(0)808 178 3020 or firstname.lastname@example.org