IBA Europe-Caucasus-Asia Forum 2019
What law firms have to do for their clients? These talks are always at the top of law firm agendas. Both law firm partners and GCs pay great attention to updating and developing clients care programs.
But it is never good enough and law firm often being blamed for not doing something. Or doing not enough. Or doing it too much. For being too passive. Or for being too aggressive. You name it!
For three years now, we are digging into Ukrainian GC’s minds to find answers.
Surprisingly, 40% of GCs were not able to express clearly their expectation from such client care programs.
At the same time, law firm partners overestimate old-fashioned tools such as resolving client’s personal issues, but underestimate so desired by GCs discounts as well as their growing need for educational activities.
So we went to them once again with the list of standard marketing tools. And here what we discovered:
- Let’s talk about free consultancy first. every seventh law firm partner believes that free services are not effective for clients’ attraction, while GCs expect free initial consultancy during the selection procedure. Moreover, GCs expect “simple yes or no” advise or water-cooler talk with external legal advisor wouldn’t be transformed into multi-kilo euro bill. “Useful partnership” thats how GCs call this approach. And while 8% of law firm partners still set themselves as a partner critical for their clients’ business. There is no single GC who shares this believe.
- Well-known and often labeled as a spam legislation updates are coming back. But selective and targeted. This tool is most wanted by national business with international reach and local businesses of international companies. On the contrary, it still being hated by big legal departments of national business. They understand implications of any legislation changes because they often behind these changes themselves.
- So praised by law firm partners fancy lunches do no work anymore and only annoy GCs. While there is a growing demand on time-effective peer-to-peer networking and educational activities (seminars, webinars, working lunches, etc).
- The best way to show your loyalty to your client is not expensive gifts for Christmas, but the discount to your invoices. (just recall how many hours you already spent to discuss this important issue and smile. In my experience there is nothing else so discussible among law firm partners as Christmas gifts).
- Watch your.costs! Because your clients do! Just another sponsorship of all-day conference in Empire-style hotel? Be prepare to be sarcastic comment from your GC next day. How about look more closely to what your clients do, for example, as their CSR? Numerous times I have heard from GCs the phrase: “We’d like our dearest law firms become interested in our CSR activities and support them sometimes!”
- For how long now we have been using the cliché KYC aka “know your client”? The challenge is not to know clients’ business. Sorry for being too obvious, it is hygienic requirement now. The most challenging issue for law firms is to understand the context their clients operate. For example, secondments. Is it a good tool? For some clients — definitely. Here let me quote one of our respondents GC: “We use secondment as it keep our headcount and payroll safe and give an extra pair of hands and eyes”. For others it would be just another annoying exercise. Here I quote again: “law firm lawyers do not understand our business deeply enough and it takes too much time to explain all aspects to them.”
- Another important issue to pay close attention to is law drafting and lobbying. Esp. on an industry level. In many cases a law firms could become an effective mediator between major players for the benefit of the industry. Needless to say, that being at the roots of any process give you and your clients an number of advantages. And emerging economies needs a law drafting expertise of law firms based on their vast practical experience.
To summaries: GCs’ demands are mounting. Rare firm is able to cover the whole spectrum. As we found, sometime GCs are not clear about their demand and without clarification you just playing “Surprise me!” game.
And let be honest: secondments, CSR, pro bono, lobbying are good for keeping brand visibility and firm’s reputation. These tools do help to foster your relations with existing clients. BUT, they do not sell. Period. What do sell then? Expertise does!