Elisabet Hardy and Greg Nilsen at Thomson Reuters Elite on how to get ahead of client expectations
It’s been common knowledge in the legal profession for some time that law firms are having to ‘do more with less’ as budgets have tightened and competition has increased. But the idea is taking on added meaning. Overall costs and final outcomes, while still critical, are not the only data points that matter to clients. They now want transparency about the progress of legal work and insight (sometimes even input) into how it is being handled every step of the way. Meeting clients’ growing thirst for knowledge and managing their need for greater control is essential to building stronger client relationships. However, doing so while maintaining profitability is a tall order.
Value and efficiency are the issues here. Often seen as a cost centre, corporate legal departments are under pressure themselves to demonstrate that they are getting the best for their company’s money – and they need to prove it via ‘real time’ information. Periodic updates are no longer sufficient; every milestone is monitored, and status (and ROI) are under constant review.
Such a trend has both positive and negative implications for law firms. On the one hand, it suggests that clients are looking beyond a purely transactional relationship and seeking greater value-add from lawyers as business partners, which could generate enhanced commercial opportunities and competitive advantage. On the other hand, delivering this level of visibility poses a significant challenge, especially when clients’ expectations are evolving all the time. Ironically, it risks creating an ever-greater drag on productivity.