This question springs from a basic question that I ask every vendor that is trying to sell me their product. I always ask “What is one of the best things that your product does, and your clients don’t seem take advantage of it?” It usually stumps them for a moment, but then a light bulb goes on and they suddenly point out a feature that is build in that would help the end user out, but they can’t seem to get the end user to take the time to use it. It also shows me if the person selling the product actually uses it. Think about what it is that you or the group you represent has a talent for, but you just can’t seem to get the rest of your firm to see that they need. Is it because it isn’t as great a service as you think, or it needs to be marketed better, or is it that it is over the heads of those that would benefit from this service?
We have answers from the Alternative Fee, Competitive Intelligence, Information Technology, Internet Marketing, and Law Library perspectives this week. Below this week’s answers is next week’s question that deals with what will be the next thing that will get “efficiencied”.
The Alternative Fee Perspective
It’s not just the thing I do very well, it’s my highest and best use
Most lawyers come to me as the AFA guy asking for the “silver bullet” AFA they can put in an email and fire off to clients. I always tell them there is no magic AFA and that the real magic comes from talking to clients about fees. My highest and best use is helping them understand this magic and then assist them in sharing it with clients.
I understand lawyers’ resistance to talking with clients about fees. Talking about price is the most challenging part of any sale. And for a technician it is very intimidating, especially a technician with core skills in representing a client’s best interest and not their own. Price conversations and negotiations feel too much like representing their own interest against a client’s. In reality, discovering the right type of AFA at the right number IS representing the client’s best interest – and your own.
This resistance means lawyers will go to great lengths to avoid talking about fees. It means that instead of helping them with this task, they ask me to create spreadsheets, analyze past billings and draft RFP response language. All of these efforts have value, but nowhere near the value of talking to clients directly about fees.
To make matters worse, the clients are too often cut from the same cloth and take the same path. This is something new and different for them and outside their comfort zone.
Getting my clients to see the value in this skill remains my highest focus. So keep your fingers crossed for me.
The Competitive Intelligence Perspective
If an Unmarketed CI Analyst Falls in the Woods… Does He Make a Sound?
I find that most of the services we provide no one asks for, due mostly to the fact they don’t know we can do it. This is a key reason why we find it necessary to continually market our services. A great example of this is Competitive Intelligence (CI).
For many reasons, I find that law firm librarians are uniquely suited to CI. We know our audience (the Attorneys), which makes it easier to target the information they need and present it in a way that they are used to. We do analysis on a daily basis (“this case is on point because…”). Putting the two together should be easy, and it is.
Before we rolled this out as formal Library service, I offered it to our marketing director and any attorney I could. When asked to do a background or news search on a prospective client, I would ask if the attorney would like a briefing pack done. When they gave me a blank stare, I would show them a sample briefing pack. 6 times out of 10, they would opt for the pack. Then, over time, I would start to get calls from Attorneys who wanted what I gave to So-and-so. I also would bring it up whenever I was found myself with the elevator with a partner or presenting in an new attorney orientation. After the requests reached a certain critical mass, I met with our Executive Committee about making this a formal institutional process. I still present on this at practice group retreats. I reinforced this with regular reports on the types of requests coming in and the success rate for new clients we assisted with.
No matter how well you do something, no one will ask you to do it if they don’t know about it. This is a principle firms live by and is equally applicable to your clients inside the firm. Market yourself and market your department’s services if you want people to see the value in what you do. They will never “just know.”
The IT Perspective
Dancing Geek to Geek!
One thing that provides value to the firm but is rarely utilized is having the firm’s IT leaders sit down with the client or potential client’s IT leaders to discuss how best to leverage technology.
Looking for opportunities to differentiate one law firm from another is becoming more important as we see continued pressure on pricing and we hear more and more about the commoditization of many types of legal work.
“Being able to demonstrate efficiencies like improving work flows, streamlining processes, better leveraging institutional knowledge and demonstrating to the client that your firm has the technical prowess to bring this all together in an effective manner is going to become a key differentiator among law firms.”
What better way to demonstrate such prowess than to have your IT leaders sit with the client’s IT leaders to discuss how technology can be used to improve the relationship? I have had the privilege to do this on a few occasions and it has always been very enlightening and useful to both sides of the conversation. Generally speaking, most of the clients are very impressed with the level of detail and understanding that law firm IT leaders (and their organizations) possess. In the e-discovery practice, we do this quite frequently as we help guide the client through the hurdles and pitfalls of e-discovery, but those are limited engagements and usually very targeted on collecting information.
“By aligning the law firm’s IT leaders with a client’s IT leaders you are building a bridge by which the two entities become more closely tied, creating a more effective relationship.”
We have known for a long time that attorneys do not feel comfortable talking about technology with their clients. We know that clients are focused on improving legal processes or at the very least controlling their legal spending. And we know how much Geeks like to be Geeks, so why not bring this full circle and let the Geeks demonstrate how in tune they really are to the business needs. Your client will thank you, the attorney will thank you and hopefully you will learn something along the way.
The Internet Marketing Perspective
Surfing on the Edge
Internet marketing can do a whiz-bang job at competitive intelligence. With handy little web tools and savvy spreadsheet skills, we can make short work of analyzing our competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
And because we spend so much time surveying the webscape, we are experts at developing strong User Experience Design. In the business since its inception, we know what works and doesn’t work on the web and are always looking for the next new thing. It was funny–yesterday Google had a fun, playful logo that swung around with the movement of your mouse. None of my Facebook friends knew what to make of it until I explained how HTML5 worked.
The web has grown so fast and so hard over the last fifteen years that it is a constant challenge to stay out front. One of our team’s strengths as leaders in technology is to educate others on all the cool tools that can be adapted for business purposes.
The Law Library Perspective
In Need of a Search Expert? Who You Gonna Call?
It may sound obvious, but one of the best things that librarians and legal researchers are good at is effective search strategies. We really own anything related to Boolean searching, and understand proximity searching perhaps better than any other profession. We know how to adjust words and phrases based on the information provided, and tend to notice when results don’t look ‘quite right’, and adjust the search strategy to fit the structure of the data we are culling. Despite all of this expertise, where is the librarian or legal researcher when lawyers, clients and electronic discovery professionals are meeting to discuss how they are going to find those “smoking gun” documents? Usually sitting in the library blue-booking a brief.
Until someone waves an “e-discovery magic wand” and designs a better way to search documents, we’re still relying upon text and phrase searching to help identify potential documents to be used in litigation. Although the attorneys may understand the legal concepts — the clients may understand the business language involved — and the e-discovery consultants may understand the process of getting everything ready for review — none of them bring the understanding of effective search strategies like a librarian researcher does.
When it comes to searching for needles in haystacks, no one beats the skill of a librarian researcher. So the next time you’re going through your third strategy session on how to cull those documents… why not give that librarian or legal research down the hall a call?
Next Week’s Elephant Question:
What do you think is going to be the next legal work process that will get ‘efficiencied’?
Meaning as we look to make thing more efficient (in the aspirations of making them effective…), are there certain things that you just know are in the cross hairs of the efficiency rifle?
We are “borrowing” this question from a comment that Ayelette Robinson made on a last week’s elephant post (she was warned we were doing it!!)
Do you think you’re up for the challenge? If you want to contribute to next week’s post, just shoot me an email and we’ll work out the arrangements.