It’s not news when a GC says it. Mark Chandler (Cisco) and Jeff Carr (FMC) have been saying it for a long time.
It’s not news when a vendor says it. Paul Lippe (Legal OnRamp) and Ron Friedman (Integreon) have been saying it for a long time.
It’s not news when a consultant or author says it. Richard Susskind (The End of Lawyers?) and I (Legal Project Management) have been saying it for a long time.
But it’s news when a law firm says it. Eversheds in the UK has begun saying it.
What is it?
Eversheds notes that the “current balance of power in the client-lawyer relationship is now with the clients.”
Here are some quotes from their report that I find interesting (all elisions and emphasis mine):
[The] balance of power shifts to clients and the legal sector enters the modern world…. Legal services are increasingly unbundled, also contributing to efficiency…. 60% of General Counsel [in the UK?] said they had already reduced their overall external legal spend…. Partners are still disconnected from what their clients want and need. For example, over two-thirds of General Counsel are demanding lower fee rates from their external lawyers and 47% of partners recognise that this is their clientsâ€™ number one priority. Crucially, however, only 25% of partners are actually delivering reduced rates, despite knowing that it is what their clients want…. Value and efficiency have finally become common in a sector that has stubbornly refused to follow business rules that say the client is always king.
Eversheds’ report isn’t definitive or unimpeachable, and it reflects the UK more than the US. On the other hand, the popularity in the UK of a number of legal process/business initiatives has foreshadowed similar trends in the US.
Efficiency Is the Order of the Day
At least according to this report, efficiency in legal projects is the order of the day. That’s Legal Project Management. A lot of firms are talking about it, but not so many are participating.
I won’t pretend Legal Project Management is painless, but it is low-pain, high-reward behavior that can truly help a firm remain profitable — and even increase profitability — in a client-is-king-or-queen environment. I’m talking about real training, of course, not the appearance of training to appease clients or firm leadership. Real training is work, for trainees as well as trainers, but so is anything in the law — and the payoff is potentially huge.
Like more-profit huge. Like minimizing-writeoffs huge. Like client-loyalty huge. Like staying-on-top huge.
Legal Project Management isn’t going to end hunger, cure disease, or stop the oil flooding through the Gulf of Mexico. It isn’t a cure-all even for legal practice management or efficiency. But it can be the difference-maker, if implemented in a practical,straightforward manner, with buy-in from firm leadership.
(Actually, Eversheds has been saying “it” for a few months now, but I’m late in noting the report, which was issued three months ago. Thanks to Rees Morrison for pointing out Eversheds’ statement. And what with the World Cup and the fuss about British Petroleum, we need something we can agree on across the pond.)
Eversheds White Paper (PDF)
Richard Susskind’s book (note that there’s a question mark at the end of his title; he’s not actually predicting the demise of attorneys. Disclaimer: I make a couple of cents if you buy his book via my link.)