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Response to “The lawyer vs. the law firm”

Here’s our response to Jordan Furlong’s recent blog post, “The lawyer vs. the law firm”.

 

Jordan – thank you for your post. I think you raise some great points, especially in terms of the overarching theme and repercussions of law firms not functioning as a normal businesses, including failing to listen to clients and their needs.

 

On the merger front, how do they really benefit companies, particularly in Canada? Clients are begging for outside legal services to get leaner and closer to their business. Seems to me that, other than for a handful of Canadian mega-clients, global mergers that – as you say – hardly go towards rationalization or cost efficiencies – further frustrate the pain points of the majority of companies. I don’t know of any clients whose key legal priority in 2013 is for their primary law firm to have an internal lawyer who they don’t know in Lisbon as opposed to their existing external contact who they hardly know in Lisbon.

 

Regarding the cross-selling (or lack of it) phenomenon, why are lawyers equipped with this role at all? Business development should be conducted by specialists in that area, just as an IT license agreement or a corporate acquisition should be carried out by someone who does that work day in and day out. Contrary to what many seem to think, proper sales and account management don’t cheapen the profession – they professionalize it. In almost every other mature business, the roles of business development and implementing the specialized service are divided. Can you imagine a frontline construction engineer also being the one in charge of sales and account management? Didn’t think so.

 

Finally, to the point of clients hiring lawyers not firms, I’m not sure I entirely agree, at least currently when it comes to alternative model firms such as our own. Our experience is that clients are gravitating to a different model – process if you will – than the mess that characterizes the market today. True, once engaged, there is a very strong lawyer-client connection, but the primary source of client dopamine comes from being part of an overall model that champions efficiency, consistency of skillset and more proximate/customer-focused delivery of legal services. Properly run, those features should be ubiquitous across all counsel in the firm.

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