Posted by: johnocunningham | February 8, 2015

Best Blogs of January: What is “Value” to a Client?

This is my 26th 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.

For the month of January 2015, I have chosen to highlight a post at Adam Smith, Esq. entitled: “What’s Value? Answer One Question.”

This post affirms something that I have learned from interviewing numerous GCs and other clients over the years – value is NOT the overall lowest price for a legal service.

It also contrasts the common market strategies of “making it for less” or “selling it for more.”

The post could well have added that there are numerous other ways in which clients perceive “value” in legal services, such as:

  • Getting advice on more than just pure legal questions, as in getting advice on more ways to manage discovery and litigation costs effectively, or getting advice on ways to better manage a raft of cases in one area (employment, IP, real estate, etc.);
  • Getting solutions to problems plaguing the industry or the company (I had an outside counsel who helped my company to reduce its workers comp costs dramatically, using solutions based on law and creative insurance products);
  • Getting advice on ways to use the law proactively to bring more money into the company (through licensing, IP enforcement, appeals of tax rulings, etc.); and
  • Getting the benefit of “experience” in dealing with senior executives – having wise counsel who has seen a hundred nightmare scenarios and can successfully counsel company executives NOT to take a high-risk action that some consultant recommends for its illusory upside.

I noticed two other posts this month worth mentioning as well. First, there is a post on the Cordell Parvin blog that provides a nice little overview of four tips for client development from an in-house lawyer. I particularly like the tip that says: “When I see your bio, and you have seven things as your area of practice, I will move on and assume you don’t specialize in my area of need.” This echoes what I hear repeatedly from the most sophisticated legal clients – you can’t be all things to all people (or even most things).

Finally, there was a good January post at “The Belly of the Beast,” which updates the state of the crisis in legal education. One point in this report was particularly salient for practitioners. It is the fact that “business spending on legal services from 2004 to 2014 grew from about $159.4 billion to $168.7 billion — a modest improvement over a ten-year period. But if expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, the same spending fell from $159.4 to $118.3 billion, a precipitous drop of 25.8 percent.”

One of the biggest reasons for that decline was clients turning to more non-lawyer professional services for discovery, technology, and other needs that arise in the course of major litigation or large transactions. Lawyers have to come to grips with the need to sell more than just answers to legal questions, which will soon be provided instantaneously and comprehensively by the likes of IBM’s Watson at a fraction of current cost.

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