Achilles, the Greek war hero, struck down by a strategically targeted arrow.
It only took a single vulnerability to topple the seemingly invincible.
In his death, the mighty Achilles taught us a valuable lesson: do not simply rely on your strengths; know your vulnerabilities and take great care to not let them be your downfall.
Like Achilles—despite great strength and skill—every law firm is vulnerable. Firms ignoring the woeful tale of Achilles are at risk. However, recognizing potential vulnerabilities gives you the opportunity to fend them off.
BTI spoke with more than 330 corporate counsel and discovered even strong relationships suffer from 1 of 3 potentially fatal weaknesses:
- 50.1% of corporate counsel see limited depth and breadth in their primary law firms.
Clients perceive limited capability within their law firms—this includes firms with hundreds (and thousands) of attorneys offering the full portfolio of legal services. The issue is rarely with the firm’s capabilities. Clients say they aren’t introduced to other partners within their primary law firm in a manner building trust or value.
The Mad Clientist’s discussions with legal decision makers show clients want to see uniform levels of knowledge about their business and industry from a single firm. Instead, clients find little coordination within their firm and are left providing the same information to multiple attorneys at a single firm—frustrating and inefficient for busy General Counsel.
BTI’s research shows corporate counsel are tired of working with dozens of law firms. Consolidation is on the rise with both middle market and large organizations. Clients, looking for time and cost savings, want integrated teams of lawyers from a single firm to handle more work efficiently.
Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
A handful of savvy law firms are already changing their structure to meet this need. Adopting industry and client teams to leverage institutional knowledge about a client organization or delivering CLE programs using lawyers from multiple practice areas to send an integrated, seamless message about the firm. 2 formidable ways to shoot poison arrows at the heels of law firms unable—or unwilling—to adjust their approach.
- 22% of clients report a decline in value from their primary law firm.
Value has been the top goal for corporate counsel 2 years running. Yet fewer law firms are answering the call. Clients tell The Mad Clientist they see an overriding lack of investment from their law firms—firms are reluctant to spend their own time building an understanding of the client’s business, discussions about new work center around rates instead of client goals, and fewer firms proactively offer (or even discuss) AFAs.
- 13.8% of corporate counsel find their law firms tapped out in client focus.
From disjointed (and sometimes a complete absence of) communication to a lack of business understanding, a small segment of clients find their primary law firms behind the curve in terms of client focus. With an eye on consolidation and a strong buyers’ market, corporate counsel demand for exceptional client focus is higher than ever.
Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
Providing the best legal advice isn’t enough anymore—most law firms are capable of this. However, delivering exceptional client focus is a true differentiator in today’s market. This means putting the client’s needs first to meet their targeted outcome and communicating how your legal advice will impact the client’s business.
Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
Undertake analytical work for your client to uncover opportunities for new work while adding value. This could come in the form of analyzing a client’s litigation portfolio to identify cost and time savings, reviewing clients’ new product plans to pinpoint potential IP and regulatory issues, or training in-house attorneys on risk mitigation or streamlined approaches to managing routine matters. Each option adds value to your client relationship while overcoming a potentially deadly Achilles’ heel.
The above issues are rarely at the forefront of a strong relationship. Unfortunately, these small—almost undetectable issues—frequently fester and grow into relationship-killing problems. But your Achilles’ heel doesn’t have to be your downfall. Well-designed client feedback can quickly uncover the poison arrows lurking in your relationships. Your ability to act and remove these vulnerabilities may be your path to legendary client relationships.
To see exactly where your firm's rates compare to what clients are paying in BTI's Billing Rate Reference 2014, visit: www.bticonsulting.com/rates.
Far out at the edges of unchartered space exists the mostly uninhabited planet of Profitable AFAs.
This isn’t science fiction comedy. Profitable AFAs do, in fact, exist. We partnered with our friends at Law360 to survey more than 750 attorneys. What we discovered is 22% of partners are prospering in what many consider a desolate land.
AFAs are old news. Clients demanding AFAs is old news. Turning a clear profit from AFAs is new.
The Mad Clientist: How many true emergency, ‘I need help right now,’ phone calls does your firm get in a year? 1, 2, 5?
Law Firm Leader: There are at least a dozen I can name off the top of my head…maybe 15.
The Mad Clientist: So, once a month?
Law Firm Leader: Yes, definitely, if not more.
The Mad Clientist: How much do these crisis calls generate in fees?
Law Firm Leader: It depends. Some are not really crises so they don’t generate much, but about half become multi-hundred thousand dollar billings, and at least one or two become multimillion dollar fees.
We all want the juicy bet-the-company work. We savor the challenge, the prestige, and the opportunity to make an impact—and a profit. But are we prepared to get the work? I know you have the resources and the talent, but are you prepared for when you get the call? Yes—the actual call for help.
Anna, about 3, immediately pulled Mom by the hand over to the lobster tank asking in a loud excited voice: “Where’s Larry?! Where’s Larry?!” as she approached the lobster tank at Captain Marden’s in Wellesley, MA.
Mom asked Steve, the man behind the counter, if he could take a moment and see if he could find Larry.
Steve grabbed the lobster rake and combed through the lobsters, at least a hundred of the little creatures. “I see him,” he told Anna, “it’ll just be a minute now.” You could see the rake being maneuvered with great intention to be sure to track down not just any lobster—but Larry the Lobster.
By 2010, the IP market was unstoppable. Patent reform, technology booms, and predatory litigation fueled unprecedented growth. The opportunities available to law firms made IP a gold-prize practice. In 2014 the gold nuggets in IP are a lot harder to find—but may be worth even more.
IP—including IP litigation—is under attack. The assailant? Corporate counsel.
While law firms have enjoyed a steady stream of IP work over the past 4 years, corporate counsel have been quietly changing their mindset. Decision makers are showing less and less interest in the never-ending, expensive approach of defending all IP at any cost. Instead, clients are moving ahead with more focus and a keener sense of priority when it comes to their IP portfolios.
Expect the impact of corporate counsel’s new approach to be in full swing by Fall 2014.
After a busy start to 2014 it’s vacation time for The Mad Clientist.
If the warm weather holds up he’ll be kicking back on the deck with a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other. Though the stack of books to catch up on is 10 books high, his top choices right now are:
The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman
Lexicon by Max Barry
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson
Where do you think he should start—let him know in the comments below. Or suggest your favorite book below to share with all of The Mad Clientist’s readers.
Whatever you’re planning, both BTI and The Mad Clientist hope your summer includes some time for yourself to pick up a book, catch a movie, enjoy a round of golf, sail or just unwind.
Have a happy 4th of July.
Every month, a typical General Counsel speaks with 22 partners—each from a different firm. While partners are discussing legal and case-specific issues, they are also looking for more work. GCs report 75% of these active matter discussions includes the partner doing one of the following:
- Asking for work in another practice area because of a job well done in one
- Offering to make introductions to partners in other practices in order to provide more services
- Inquiring about new, upcoming matters
GCs don’t want substantive case discussions littered with sales pitches. These business development strategies are more distracting and dilutive than productive. Keep case discussions and the overt sales pitches separate (in contrast to developing business through superior client service and anticipating needs).
When a client walks into your lobby what’s the first thing they do?
Admire the wall of beautiful art or well-lit founders' portraits? Take in the fresh flower display that’s rotated on a weekly basis?
No. They head to the receptionist and ask to be directed to the person they are trying to visit.
Websites are the virtual lobbies of today. And much like lobbies and conference rooms, websites are a means to an end.
In fact, the truth is more than half (56%) of clients never visit their law firm’s website. Remember, clients expect to learn everything they need to know from their partner. There’s no need to go to the site.
But don’t delete your URL just yet. It’s time to put your website to more strategic use.