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The Mad Clientist

GCs Say Dealing with Law Firms Tiring, Cumbersome

By February 22, 2017No Comments

Your client’s time is way more valuable than money. Your clients will tolerate your higher rates and budgets much longer than you wasting their time. While clients don’t like to do it, they can rejigger budgets and apply more price pressure to future work to try to manage their overall budget. Not so with their time.

Clients tell us their time is finite. Top legal decision makers can rarely rearrange their workload and decisions to create more time—and if they could they would have already done it. Your clients are maxed out. This makes wasting clients’ time an especially potent villain in destroying value. And almost every single top legal decision maker we talk to has their own take on exactly how law firms waste their time—and, it’s the little things clients think should be streamlined and easy.

Such a Slow Start

These clients talk about protracted negotiations to move from the decision to hire to starting the work, stilted communication between attorneys in the firm resulting in a multiplicity of meetings, new people joining the team who are wholly unprepared, and excessively long documents. 37% of clients see these behaviors as their biggest waste of time.

Incomprehensible Invoices

Dealing with law firm invoices is corporate counsel’s 2nd biggest time sink. 17.7% of clients think deciphering law firm bills is their biggest waste of time. These clients have little patience or sympathy for anything but a clear, easily understandable invoice. Most clients readily admit they take an indecipherable invoice and put it aside until the offending law firms call and ask about it. These same clients then ask for a detailed explanation—wasting even more time.

Errors and Mistakes

10% of clients find themselves correcting attorney work product. Few things destroy value and deflate a relationship more than errors. While clients see the raw cost—they are more concerned about the loss of their own time for what will be their scrutiny of the revised work product.

Helping the One Person with Less Time than You

With the exception of errors, you can turn each of these sink holes of client time into a value-added experience. Clients believe this time is wasted because they can’t see the value. You can reverse this perception by reversing the communication pattern. For example:

  • Tell clients about your internal meetings before they see the invoice
  • Share all the steps you will go through to start a matter—before starting the matter
  • Review anything resembling a complicated invoice with your client before sending it out
  • Use client friendly time entries so clients can see why you are doing what you are doing

If you think you don’t have the time to tell your clients what you are doing and why you are doing it—think of the only person in your life with less time than you—your client. 


*Based on in-depth BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2016 and August 2016. BTI conducted more than 330 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

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