11/19/12

Dear Client - You'll Need to be More Specific

Image [cc] J. Paxon Reyes
Dear Client,

You have been pretty clear about wanting to save money. AFAs, bigger discounts and all sorts of 'cost savings' messages are being sent to firms. Law firms have responded with an array of pricing proposals, which are often set aside in favor of bigger discounts. Whether this saves you money or not, no one is sure. But at least you are being specific about what you want and accepting nothing less.

As an extension of those cost savings messages, you have also talked about wanting more efficiency. Here's where we are running into a problem. What do you mean by efficiency? Law firms assume you generally mean doing things with less hours. But you could also want firms doing things with cheaper hours. Or doing things with technology instead of humans. Or maybe even to stop doing certain things. Which is it? Or is it some combination? Are there certain approaches on the list you don't want firms to employ?

You are starting to see the problem here.

Absent specific instructions to your law firms, they are not sure what to do. Most firms believe they are already being efficient. From their perspective, they do things with the least amount of hours they can. There you go. Efficiency achieved.

But its likely you are not satisfied with this answer. Which leaves law firms a bit confused or at a minimum ignorant of your needs. So, as a favor to your firms, be a bit more specific about what it is you want exactly the next time you ask for more efficiency. 

Signed,
Waiting For More Guidance

UPDATE: To our good fortune, John Wallbillich over at WiredGC, was gracious enough to respond with "My Lawyer, He Wrote Me a Letter." If only more clients would respond like this.

Sound crazy? Yes and No. Yes - in that a provider of a service isn't already laser-focused on efficiency  No - in that this reactive approach is the mantra of the legal profession.

Lawyers are really responsive. They are great at doing whatever the client asks. But not until the client asks. Law firms don't show up on the client's door and suggest they need to sue some other company  They wait until the client calls them with a lawsuit and asks them to represent them before they do anything. That's the paradigm of the profession. Unfortunately, this mind-set has put law firms in a passive, reactive relationship with their clients on many other fronts, including efficiency.

So ... my guess is that until clients specifically ask for some type of efficiency  law firms will continue to wait for more direction. Lawyers do know how to file motions and write great contracts. Efficiency? Not so much.

Of course the smart lawyers will shed their passive, reactive ways and go engage in efficiency conversations with clients. But equally likely, there won't be enough of that. Thus the letter to clients.

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3 comments:

David said...

I like this letter for clients, gets straight to the point

Noah Waisberg said...

I'm not convinced disambiguating "efficiency" is what is holding law firms back. Achieving efficiency is a medium to long term project—building systematic processes, trying new technology, experimenting with on- or off-shoring can take time. And, in my experience, many lawyers are focussed on more short term, urgent projects (or recovering from these). This is too bad for lawyers—efficiency is a worthwhile project for them. More efficient firms will have an easier time getting and keeping clients; better work for less money is a compelling sales proposition. Modifying slightly what you say, smart lawyers will proactively figure out how to make their practice more efficient.

For what it's worth, I have found leveraging lawyers' client-responsiveness very helpful in getting lawyers to try our new efficiency software. We get much better results when we go to a firm via a referral from a good client than we do if we go direct to lawyers who should be users.

Steven B. Levy, author of Legal Project Management said...

Consider how this question parallels Hostess Brands' decline. Lawyers and Twinkies - here. http://lexician.com/lexblog/2012/11/the-twinkie-defense/

 

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