Sunday, 17 January 2010

Focus on the Client

There seems to be something wrong - either with law firms or with the way that the industry is reported. I offer as evidence the main news stories (as shown on the front page of the web site) from "The Lawyer" on Sunday 17th January 2010, which I believe is fairly representative:

  1. K&L Gates smashes through $1bn turnover mark
  2. Former Mayer Brown partner gets seven years for fraud
  3. Jackson proposes sweeping reforms to cut litigation costs
  4. Simmons named Stonewall's top gay friendly law firm
  5. Withers faces Commons investigation over email to MP
  6. Eversheds covets commoditised market with South African pilot
  7. Fried Frank and Simon Thacher to advise on Virgin Media's £1.5bn bond
  8. Ashurst acts on National Express' £350m bond issue
  9. Linklaters names next Asia head as Shao departs for JP Morgan
  10. Ashurst revamps management board as Sparrow vacates seat
  11. White & Case sends London partner to head Singapore arbitration practice
  12. Latham scoops Ashurst partner for City corporate push
This from one of the two industry voices. What can we tell from the list: two stories from ten about clients (and both about money); the big news is "look how much money we made last year; two worrying stories (numbers 2 and 5) about the sort of people who may be in the industry; and the rest of the stories very inward looking. Perhaps no client has ever read "The Lawyer", but there certainly doesn't seem to be any interest in them as a group - other than from the point of view about how valuable (in cash terms) they are. Even the stories that don't seem to be about individual earnings often are. "The Lawyer" has a story about legal fees ("Legal costs emerge as defining issue of 2010’s biggest cases"). In all the discussion about high costs in cases, there is no mention of the fact that the high costs come from the high fees charged by the lawyers - i.e. personal earnings.

From reading this news, and from further digging in the web site, it would appear that the industry and the lawyers who make it up are obsessed with their own earnings, their own position within the industry and see clients as "cash cows". This cannot be good.

In case this is normal in any industry, I also examined "Third Sector" on the same day, one of the main "voices" for the charity sector. I'm not going to list the news stories out again, but lets look at the break down:
  1. Stories about fraud - or poor practice: 1
  2. Stories about training or new developments in the industry: 4
  3. News roundup: 1
  4. Appeal for funds (for the DEC): 1
  5. Industry news: 1
Note, please. No stories about people inside the industry. No stories about personal earnings. No stories about how much charities turned over (and surely that is something that one can be proud about..?)

My point is this. The law is about clients - serving them as well as possible and serving them as efficiently as possible. The client's wishes should be at the fore-front of the industry. If this was true, it would inevitably be reflected in stories about the industry. "The Lawyer" would be reporting the benefits of cases won  - the benefits to the client that is. There would be stories about pro bon work - and I know that there is a good deal of this done. There would be stories about new practices in the industry which are designed to save costs to the benefit of the client and not to protect or improve PEP.

Focus on the client and the rest of your business will fall into place. Make every decision by saying - what benefit does this have for our clients. Save money so that your firm can charge less or do more pro bono work - not so that PEP can increase.

Follow up: this piece from "Legal Week" seems in line with what I'm saying.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree, unfortunately, though, the whole british way of things is more "money grabbing" focused, rather than client focused.