I was in Toronto this week to attend the launch of the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Toronto Chapter. Eighty attendees filled the conference room at the St. Andrews Club yesterday to celebrate the launch and hear from guest speaker Marcie Borgal Shunk from BTI Consulting Group, a Boston-based business and research company.
Congratulations to LMA Toronto
First I would like to send congratulations to LMA Toronto President Nanette Matys and Board members Elizabeth Gill, Karyn McLean, Diana Lawrence, Lynda Monteith, Dianne Rychlewski, Stuart Wood and Elizabeth Cockle, for successfully undergoing the considerable work of forming a Chapter and for organizing the impressive launch event. The LMA Toronto Chapter promises to be a valuable addition to the Toronto, and indeed Canadian, legal landscape.
Top Legal Trends in 2008
Now on to the BTI Consulting Group report on the top legal trends to watch for it 2008. Of the ten trends reported the four I will report on today are:
- Outside counsel spending is slowing. After a five year period of growth the trend is now turning and “projected market growth for 2008” is estimated at 6.1%.
- Legal work is moving in-house, AGAIN.
- Convergence is back – more dollars for fewer firms. If you aren’t one of a client’s top two law firms then your share of the wallet is getting smaller. Side note – over 50% of companies switched their primary firms in 2008. That means if you have the position of primary firm guard it closely! And if you are a secondary firm, dislodging a primary firm can result in a considerable increase in wallet share so start planning your approach now.
- The top goal for corporate counsel for the second year in a row is cost management and value for the dollar. Don’t equate lower fees with value.
What do Corporate Counsel Mean by “value for the dollar”?
Value for the dollar is the perception of the value of the work received from the lawyer, law firm. BTI reports that this is the top unmet need expressed by Corporate Counsel. If you are seeking to take over a primary law firm spot, then build your strategy around this. Value for the dollar does not mean lower legal fees. Indeed, the firms rated highest for value are also high fee firms.
BTI reported on several measures of value:
- Understanding the client’s business: This means providing solid business solutions to the client grounded in a deep understanding of the client’s business, industry, and the specific needs related to each transaction or file. The law firm invests non-billable time in learning as much as possible about the client’s business.
- Responsiveness: Responding in a timely fashion. Responsiveness is not just about responding to phone calls and emails promptly. It more generally addresses the lawyer and law firm’s ability to meet a wide-variety of client requests. For instance, on five separate occasions BTI heard from corporate counsel that when requesting quarterly instead of monthly bills from their law firms they were told by their lawyers that their accounting departments were unable to accommodate this request.
- Commitment to help: The lawyer is truly interested in helping to solve the problem not just bill the hours.
Value for money is not a new concept. The ideas listed above make up the content of a library shelf full of books. Law firms have invested countless dollars in retreats, seminars, and conferences on the topic. The question is: why is it so difficult to get this right? The answer is time. What David Maister has referred to as investment time. It takes time, non-billable time, to get this right. And time is the one thing no lawyer has today. The billable hour demands keep going up. The “investment time” any lawyer has is scarce. If you want to achieve value for money then give your lawyers the time to deliver it.