Clients tell us the shock is over. It may not be any easier — but it’s reality. Top legal decision makers have had time to reflect and adapt. They are thinking about what’s coming, making immediate plans, and strategizing their next moves and beyond. And, they have shared their thoughts with The Mad Clientist. They breakdown into 7 major topics:
No longer when it will end, but how long will it last?
Back in March clients were talking in terms of months. Now, we routinely hear talk of a year or even years. Yes, years. Clients see this as a long-term process. This shift has many implications for the workforce and economy — but also provides one of the first organic platforms on which to build a long-term service plan. Use your BD departments and BD executives to develop, or help attorneys develop, these plans.
No longer a surprise, or new
The pandemic rumbled as it was coming, and landed with a thud and splash. Clients have stretched their time frames and accepted Zoom calls as part of their lives. As we discussed last week, we are already in the midst of the next normal. And now it’s all about the next normal. Law firms focusing on what’s coming next will get more traction than those focusing on what if.
How much will law firms ask for in their rate increases, and when will they know
Clients face the biggest surge of work most have seen in their careers. Litigation matters are going to surge 24% with a 4% budget increase. They have to factor in rate increases and no law firms are giving any hint as to what to expect. Many clients are expecting the worst. We recommend getting out and talking about your rate increases now — even if it’s just resetting rates back to the discounts you offered when the pandemic first broke out. The more clients know, the less frustrated they are, and the more likely you are to get exactly what you want.
Clients want to keep some of the interesting work for themselves
The pandemic is generating some of the most interesting litigation, deals, and legal problem-solving clients have seen in a long time. They love a challenge and want to work on some of these cases themselves. Stand by and offer research help and other support. Help clients enjoy the intellectual challenge. You will not only give your client help they need, you will also gain insight into how they like to work and become a more valued resource.
How to get more people and budget
Tackling all the new matters coming in the door takes time, money, and talent — and every client is trying to figure out how to get more of each. Law firms are often too busy to offer secondments, so the more you can help with settlement strategies and fixed fees, the more time and talent you free up for clients. You can also share strategies and tactics your other clients have used to gain more budget for in-house attorneys.
How to get ahead of their business unit leaders
Top legal decision makers have their organization’s best vantage points for spotting regulatory demands and requirements for current operations and reopening. They are trying to figure out how to get the messages out to business unit leaders before they act and make decisions. The internal legal advisors see this as a real opportunity to plan and avoid problems, and they want to act in advance. You can help your clients craft the message and share experiences with other clients.
Should I hire a new law firm to help?
Large clients work with hundreds of law firms — but 2 or 3 get the bulk of the serious work. The same holds true for mid-size clients. They use a dozen law firms, but only 2 or 3 get the bulk of the work. Both large and mid-size clients face the same issue. Only 1 of these primary firms is rising to the occasion. This helps explain the surge in RFPs heading to law firms. Clients know they need more than a single firm to step up.
Strategically designed client feedback will tell you where you stand with your clients and how you measure up against other firms serving them. In the interim, you can take your team and redefine client service excellence for each client. Hold a 1-hour Zoom meeting asking each internal team member to bring 1 idea on how to improve client service. Ask clients how and where the firm can improve or share your list and ask them to comment.
The whole world is redefining how to work with clients and manage business relationships. Your ability to understand and leverage the new definition and expectations is the difference between keeping and gaining clients — or not.
More changes will come and evolve. We are seeing big changes in spending plans for 2021 and we will be detailing them all in our upcoming report, the BTI Practice Outlook 2021: Pandemic-Led Legal Spending. The market for today, and for the foreseeable future, belongs to those who can read it and develop opportunities. Please reply to Michael Rynowecer if you want early access to this research.
The market is changing, morphing, and can be completely different in the blink of an eye. The same holds true for client expectations. Think of clients as the beacon of light in the fog, they will guide you to safety and success.
Be well. Be Safe. Be cautious.
The MAD Clientist