In the past year, at least three state bar associations – in Arizona, California and Utah – have proposed some form of relaxation to ethical rules that would purportedly increase competition and drive down costs. What the proposals have in common is that they would enable technology providers, paraprofessionals and others to provide specified types of legal service, and/or allow some capital investors to own shares in law firms.

This development is years behind the licensing and creation of Alternative Business Structure (“ABS”) law firms in the U.K. Across the pond, ABS firms already have non-lawyer owners, investors and boards that focus more on technology, innovation, management and process improvement than traditional law firms do.

The jury is out on whether the new competition will arrive here, and whether it will be dominant and disruptive.  But one international Deloitte study has already claimed that more than half of clients surveyed are comfortable with buying services from non-traditional providers. Furthermore, non-traditional providers already compete with law firms in automated document review, economic damages modeling, and other fields. So the forces of disruption have been unleashed, and it is unlikely they will be put back in the box.

For law firms that already embrace professional management styles, work on service innovations, adopt new technologies, and use process improvement principles for perpetual improvement, there will be much less disruption and downside as competition from all angles intensifies.

Furthermore, there is a huge opportunity for leading-edge firms to claim more clients now by communicating to the marketplace about their forward-looking service attitudes, innovative approaches to practice, and client satisfaction results.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 23, 2020

Best Blog Posts in 4Q of 2019: Sales, Innovation, Networking, Etc.

This is my 78th post in a series of monthly (sometimes quarterly) features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month (or quarter) I peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

Reviewing blog posts for the 4th quarter of 2019, I have chosen to highlight the following posts:

Hope you find some useful stuff in that treasure trove of content, as I did.

This is my 77th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month, I peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

Reviewing blog posts for July 2019, I have chosen to highlight the following posts:

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 20, 2019

“Hot Button” Issues for In-House Legal Counsel at Big Companies

Corporate legal clients told law firm audience members about their “hot button” legal service issues at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

And here is a snapshot of what panelists told law firms about their “hot button” issues with legal service:

  • Technology should be a lawyer’s “best friend” and law firm should be exploiting it more, especially with respect to hyper-cloud solutions tools.
  • Some outside lawyers still fail to communicate proactively when a matter is going South so that damage can be minimized.
  • Some outside lawyers are still failing to communicate well on all matters, and that usually results in no more business coming their way.
  • Outside lawyers who find in-house lawyers calling them regularly for updates should take that as a warning sign that communication is lagging.
  • When outside counsel does communicate, it is important to do so in “executive summary” fashion, getting to the point quickly and effectively.

Clearly, the hottest of hot buttons seem to center around communication, suggesting that outside lawyers might benefit from some formal training on how to communicate effectively with in-house contacts in way that is sensitive to their perspectives and needs (which are different from private practice).

Big kudos to moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein, for some excellent panel questioning.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 19, 2019

What’s Missing from Lawyer Profiles on Websites?

Corporate legal clients told law firm audience members what they would like to see in lawyer profiles on law firm websites when they spoke at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

And here is a snapshot of what panelists told law firms they would like to see in website profiles of individual lawyers:

  • All panelists agreed they would like to see some quantification of lawyer experience, such as number of cases tried or tried to verdict, number of transactions closed, dollar amounts of transactions, and percentage of times that transactions have completed ahead of schedule or under budget.
  • All panelists agreed they would like to see more industry-specific experience in lawyer profiles.
  • Three of four panelists agreed that it would be nice to know about the hobbies, personal interests and passions of lawyers to see their human side while one panelist saw such information as irrelevant but not offensive or silly.

Big kudos to moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein, for some excellent panel questioning.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 17, 2019

What’s Missing from Law Firm RSP’s ?

Corporate legal clients told law firm audience members what is missing from their RFP responses at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

And here is what panelists told law firms about how to improve on RFP’s:

  • Firm RFPs must have meaningful budget information based on real-world experience – this is THE big thing that all panelists identified as a problem
  • Firms should address how they protect confidential and privileged information from cyber-risk and traditional risks
  • Firms cannot do a “bait and switch” on diversity claims, showing one face for the RFP and another in their actual staffing

Big kudos to moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein, for some excellent panel questioning.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 15, 2019

Legal Clients on Service Experiences They Loved or Hated

Corporate legal clients were very candid about service experiences that positively “wowed” them and others that got lawyers fired or dropped from outside counsel lists – that was the audience take at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

Here are some examples of service experiences that impressed in-house corporate counsel and earned big points for the lawyers who provided them:

  • One firm provided a detailed budget proposal with “if-then” scenarios that anticipated various contingencies, and then followed through with quality work consistent with budget.
  • Another firm – at the conclusion of a matter – shared “lessons learned” packaged in a format that was readily digestible and offered practical insights and suggestions.
  • Another firm offered up a creative alternative fee arrangement that contained a “success fee” for the upside and pain-sharing for the downside.
  • In general, quality work and regular, clear and simple communication earned big points with in-house counsel.

Panelists also called out some of the service experiences that can get lawyers fired or dropped from outside counsel lists, such as:

  • Failing to follow instructions
  • Failing to get proper authority to make an important decision
  • Failure to be diplomatic or acting antagonistically toward the client
  • Just being overly adversarial with anyone
  • Failing to communicate or communicating poorly
  • Consistently waiting until the last minute to meet deadlines
  • Ethical failures
  • Excessive billing
  • Failing to go through the legal department with communication or decision-making

Big kudos to moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein, for some excellent panel questioning.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 14, 2019

Legal Clients Read and Value Law Firm Content (if it’s good)

Corporate legal clients answered several questions about content marketing by law firms at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

Here is what panelists revealed to audience members about content marketing:

  • All of them periodically read law firm newsletters or client alerts.
  • All of them read lawyer publications on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.
  • Three of four read one or more law firm blogs.
  • Three of four periodically listen to industry-focused podcasts.
  • All of them periodically read industry-focused content.
  • Three out of four do NOT prefer video content – lawyers still like to read.
  • All of them have hired a lawyer as a result of compelling and useful content.
  • None of them believe that articles published in the media are more credible than self-published content put out by law firms.

Panelists also called out some of the content publications they like, including:

  • Jason Barnwell’s business of law podcast
  • the ACC Docket
  • Updates by Skadden and Wachtell Lipton

Big kudos to moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein, for some excellent panel questioning.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 12, 2019

Clients Give Clear Signals on Legal Service Issues at LSSO RainDance

Corporate legal clients clearly flagged their service preferences while providing key insights on how and why they purchase or discontinue services at the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (“LSSO”) RainDance conference in June.

Thanks to Louise Henkel, director of business development and marketing at Hill Ward Henderson, for her notes on the input provided by the following panelists:

  • Christine Castellano, former Sr. VP, GC and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion, Inc.
  • Dennis Garcia, Assistant GC at Microsoft
  • Steven Heinrichs, Executive VP, GC and Chief Legal Compliance Officer at Mueller Water Products
  • Edward Paulis III, VP and Sr. Assistant GC at Zurich North America

Here are some of the highlights from their answers to excellent questions posed by moderator Julianne Hartzell, partner at Marshall Gerstein:

  • All panelists have engaged in a process improvement planning session with a law firm in the past few years (process improvement is a growing focus for firms).
  • All have instructed one or more law firms that they will not pay for first-year associate training hours on their projects.
  • All are open to the idea of meeting with law firm sales professionals who are not practicing lawyers.
  • All have been proactively approached by a law firm about alternative fee arrangements within the last year.
  • Three out of four just stop working with a lawyer whose work product or attitude does not measure up to their standards rather than spending energy on some form of progressive counseling.
  • All are receptive to conversations with their legal providers about the service and how it can be enhanced or improved.
  • All have audited law firm invoices to check for compliance with hiring letter instructions, and all have fired one or more counsel for failure to follow those instructions.
  • Three of four panelists said the biggest thing missing from law firm RFPs are meaningful project budgets.
  • All of them consult with their peers, including other GCs, when looking for counsel in a niche area that is new to them.
  • Three out of four rank “industry knowledge and understanding” as the biggest factor in their hiring decisions versus lower hourly rates or peer review rankings, such as Chambers.
  • All are interested in knowing how firms are using technology to improve product quality, cost or delivery speed.
  • Three out of four would give “plus points” to a law firm bidding for business that has undergone meaningful process improvement training.

Watch for more posts to this blog in days to come about legal client preferences regarding content marketing, client hot buttons, website profiles, and more.

Posted by: johnocunningham | July 29, 2019

Big Four Adopting AI for Legal Services

Artificial intelligence is providing an increasing amount of legal service, especially for the Big Four accounting/consulting firms, and law firms will have to figure out how to adopt AI or eventually shed the services that AI competition will inevitably claim.

As of a year ago, three out of the Big Four had adopted one form of AI – Luminance – for the purpose of streamlining, enhancing and speeding up labor-intensive electronic and document review work related to regulatory compliance, litigation discovery and due diligence involving mergers and acquisitions. By contrast, only 10 percent of the Am Law 100 had taken any steps to adopt the use of the same technology.

Luminance is just the latest form of AI to invade the legal space (IBM’s Watson has made earlier inroads at some firms) and there will no doubt be more legal cyborgs marching forward. With Luminance claiming that it can cut review times in half while maintaining or enhancing quality of outcomes, there is not telling how much improvement remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – clients will opt for the fastest and most cost-effective solution.

 

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