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July 02, 2007

Solo and Small Firms Should Go In For the Kill

In Patrick Lamb's In Search of Perfect Client Service he posts the recent survey of GC's and we learn that satisfaction amongst GCs with their outside counsel is dropping significantly:

Just under 30% of inside counsel respondents believe the level of service provided by their law firms has improved over the past five years, while almost 70% of the firms agree that service has improved.

Some of the quotes in the survey report are instructive:

"Law firms can't say they are actively seeking ways to reduce costs and then pay incoming associates $160,000 per year."
Christine Helwick, GC, California State University

"I always ask if we can have arrangements other than the hourly fee, but law firms shy away and offer reasons why it won't work."
Christian Na, GC, Mitel Networks

"I hold my thumb on my outside firms.  It's very labor intensive on my side to prevent a runaway budget."
Paul Risner, General Counsel, Boca Raton Community Hospital

Solos and small firms who are responsive to this general (counsel) unrest and address these concerns can make inroads into working with larger clients who traditionally work with Big Law...IF they understand the cause of their disatisfaction and address each and every one in a meaningful way.  The client and the Big Law firm are clearly suffering a major pricing and customer service disconnect but the client feels somewhat captive by the quaint and provincial notion they must retain Big Law.

If this client is your 'ideal' client," now is the time to cast your line in the water, but make sure you have the proper bait:  extraordinary customer service, creative billing, project based fees and legal associates (if you are a small firm) who do not earn $160,000 per year!  And let them know they are NOT captive to Big Law.  Educate them on the benefits of your services and why Big Law is no longer the only answer, just the more expensive answer.   

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» It's that Muscle Boutique thing again. from What About Clients?
While WAC? still thinks that solos face a tough time obtaining and keeping Fortune 500 clients (minimum: you need 3 full-time higher-end well-paid lawyers, all crazy about client service), we do like Susan Cartier Liebel's post "Solo and Small Firms... [Read More]

Comments

Paul Jacobson

Do smaller firms in the US struggle with a perception that because they are smaller they offer less valuable services? I wonder if larger firms won't continue to receive the work because they are perceived to be better because they are bigger and have fancier offices?

On the other hand, if that perception doesn't really exist then smaller firms make a lot of sense.

I'd certainly like to see that perception fade away here in South Africa.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Paul, smaller firms don't suffer from the delusion they are not qualified to handle the work. Big Corporations are under the delusion that ONLY Big Law can handle their work. Unless solos and small firms educate them on why they are, in fact, sometimes better qualified to address their needs, Big Corporations will not see there is a real viable alternative. It is the solo/small firm's job to educate. My position is the time is now.

Sounds like this challenge is global?

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