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For law firms “Now the shoe is on the other foot”

January 16th, 2013 |

Adam Smith Esq (Bruce MacEwen of NYC to his friends) writes in his Letter from London yesterday: "Among many topics of discussion one stood out head and shoulders above all else: The changing law firm/client relationship. The salient points, which for regular readers need no rehearsing, included:

  • Clients have market power—and they’re using that muscle with firms (we’re talking about fees here, folks).
  • Firms and clients need to work together in new ways to wring excess out of law firms’ working habits.
  • And most fascinating to me of all was that there was candid discussion of whether clients were at all complicit in the demise of Dewey. Answer: “Yes, but….”

"The first point is inarguable and I have believed for years and years that clients have market power; the issue was they didn’t know it, or if they did they didn’t exert it. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I believe firms have market power, which they’re too lacking in self-awareness, or simple courage, to deploy.

Simply put, clients and firms need each other. Not in the blank-check way clients used to need us, but for all the caterwauling about the sun setting on BigLaw, a sophisticated law firm remains an amazing source of rapidly deployable expertise for which there is little substitute in exigent circumstances.

Here’s the fascinating point about the balance of power between clients and firms: Convincing empirical evidence was provided by George Beaton that what clients actually care about most—in terms of how they actually behave as opposed to what they say—their #1 priority is cost consciousness by their firms and not the total amount of fees, a/k/a cost per se. (No, this doesn’t mean you can take rich advantage of your clients any more than it means they should nail you to the wall on every little detail, but it seemed to come as a surprise, even a revelation, to most folks in the room.)"

Thank you for this citation of our work in researching clients' buying processes and decision-making criteria Bruce. Keeping your company was both enjoyable and exhilarating. Until next time.

 By George Beatonis a director of Beaton Capital and Beaton Research + Consulting. You can find George on Google+ at +George Beaton.

Posted in beatonbenchmarks, Law | Comments Off on For law firms “Now the shoe is on the other foot”

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