Early on in my career, I was criticised by my boss for a job I’d done for a client. The criticism wasn’t about the quality of the work but the fact that I hadn’t done the job the client had asked the firm to do.
This may sound bad but what I’d actually done was speak to the client to work out what they needed. I found a simpler solution to the client’s problem, saving about 80% of the quoted fees and giving them something far better suited to their needs. Surely all part of the service you want and expect from your legal advisor?
That wasn’t how the partner who saw it. In his eyes, I’d cost the firm about £8,000 in revenue. To him, this was more important than helping the client resolve their problem in an efficient way, even outweighing any goodwill that was generated.
This was part of the reason why I set up Punk Legal – to provide an opportunity to do things differently in a well-established market. So it interested me when I recently read a report published by LexisNexis (http://blogs.lexisnexis.co.uk/futureoflaw/).
It’s clear many law firms haven’t moved on much from traditional charging structures or ways of operating and are not delivering what clients want. If you can get a firm to shift from hourly rate to fixed fee, there can be a tendency for lawyers to move things outside scope rather than accept a risk on the fees.
Businesses generally accept there is a risk/reward element and that there is always the possibility of losing money on some contracts. The unwillingness of many law firms to operate in this way conflicts with the commercial realities of their clients.
At the same time, smaller businesses can’t afford to counter this by employing someone to handle their legal needs on a full time basis, in the way that many large companies now do. This leaves them stuck with accepting the limited offerings that they can get, particularly if they stick to the mainstream.
All too often, whilst working in industry, I would negotiate contracts with private practice lawyers who either a) wouldn’t move away from their own precedent or b) got caught up in covering off the most remote of risks in complex drafting.
What I’ve found is that many clients want something that does the job (the “good enough” service flagged up in the report). They feel that not every area that could potentially arise needs to be covered off in a contract. Rather, they prefer to focus on the key areas and actually get on with things. The longer it takes to sign off the contract, the slower the revenue stream comes online.
Another standout theme from the report is the lack of understanding of a client’s core business that law firms often have. Instructions can be seen as one offs and, all too frequently, there is no joined up approach with work previously carried out or actual knowledge of the business and its activities.
At Punk Legal we don’t need to follow these rules. Our priority is to understand our clients’ needs and provide them with the best solution for them. We want to be seen as a part of your team, so get in touch to see how we can work with you.