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21 July 2016
Business law firms 2.0: the highest level of closeness to the client
The business law firms, which especially in continental Europe had to face a professional “desacralisation” (a law firm being often perceived as a mere legal service provider and nothing more), are now confronted to an increasing competitiveness in the market.
Many law firms have understood that in order to acquire clients and, moreover, to retain them, the key word is “closeness”. And a closeness at every level, be it « commercial » closeness (by trying to better understand the client’s needs) but also a « physical » closeness, as we will explain more in detail below!
A business lawyer being closely connected to his client and understanding thoroughly the business of its clients quickly appears as essential and both parties find their profit: for the client, decisions-making is constantly optimised thanks to continuous legal oversight, and for the law firm, a continuous workflow is ensured.
Sedlo Law Firm shows three simple ways for business law firms to be closer to their clients:
The uberisation at its highest level
Client and business lawyers use to communicate mainly by e-mails and phone. However, would it not be possible to enhance such communication for example by using, as a rule, the video conference (such as Skype) or perhaps communicating also by SMS/WhatsApp?
In our view, these direct means of communication perfectly fit the needs of the business lawyers’ clients: a quick answer and a continuous availability. In case of more complex questions, this way to communicate could of course be completed by detailed and written legal advice.
We believe many professionals tend to underestimate the power of such a direct communication, but we bet it will sooner or later appear as obvious for lawyers to communicate directly in such way with a client in order to ensure the client’s satisfaction and to bind him.
Secondments of lawyers with clients
The client needs to feel that he is understood by his lawyer. In order to ensure this, it seems to be essential to be immersed in the client’s business world. Besides “traditional” communication means (such as business lunches and client meetings, we believe that periodical secondments of lawyers with significant clients is the ideal way for a lawyer to learn about the client’s business activity. This is a common practice in Anglo-Saxon countries but in our view too rarely used in Continental Europe (often because of regulatory obstacles). Still so much to do in this respect!
A policy of tailor-made fees
In our view, the strict application of an hourly rate is the typical expression of opposed interest interests between the client and its business lawyer: the business lawyer sets a price and the client will try to negotiate it.
Why not getting closer in this field also? Instead of strictly applying an unique hourly rate, why not adapt the rate to the client’s needs and to the type and importance of the deal?
A lower rate for a transaction of minor strategical importance to the client and a higher rate for an important transaction. To achieve that, clients and lawyers must trust each other, and this is the main issue.
Especially since the financial crisis, clients tend to ask systematically for substantial discounts, whatever the nature and the importance of the deal is. As a result, law firms tend to stuck to their fixed hourly rates not taking into account the nature and importance of the transaction. A lot to do to rebuild mutual trust on that aspect!
Head of Business Development