Collaboration is key to maximizing share of clients’ legal spend

Topics: Acritas, Billing & Pricing, Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Collaboration, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Thomson Reuters

collaboration

Many law firms dream of gaining a larger share of their clients’ legal spend, especially during difficult economic times like the market is experiencing now. However, there are tools and processes that can make it easier for this to happen, including ramping up how your firm collaborates both internally and with clients.

Recently, I was honored to participate in a webinar, How Collaboration Increases Client Share of Wallet for Law Firms, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Acritas (now part of Thomson Reuters), that looked at improving collaboration to maximize your law firm’s share of your clients’ wallet. Working in a pandemic has driven home the importance of collaboration to law firms, and ensuring your firm is addressing how best to collaborate is becoming more essential.

Critically, firms need to look at collaboration, not only internally, to ensure the firm moves as a unit, but also externally, to keep providing clients with the outstanding services they expect.

Indeed, data from Acritas demonstrates the imperative of collaboration, showing that:

  • seven-in-ten stand-out lawyers say there are barriers to collaboration within their firm with the biggest barriers being lack of incentive (23%) to collaborate and individualistic attitudes (21%);
  • increased job satisfaction and compensation correlate with more collaboration, as does average share of work portfolio with cross-border and cross-practice work types; and
  • on balance, 15% of respondents think that collaboration between teams has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case for focused collaboration has never been clearer, or more pressing. And collaboration isn’t just about small talk and team building with colleagues — it’s having joined up thinking on the processes that enable effective working.

During the recent webinar event, panelists discussed the renewed interest in collaborative thinking, driven by the current global shift to remote working. Several panelists highlighted how collaboration in today’s market crosses business units and regional offices, and how it can include the broader market, such as working with competitors and disruptors on innovative solutions to push the legal industry forward.

Recalibrating the collaborative process

Panelists also identified several areas where firms can meaningfully recalibrate collaborative processes. Knowledge sharing is a space in which it’s critical to get collaboration right, especially to advise clients on knowledge sharing with their own clients.

Technology facilitates greater collaboration, of course, but often getting that part right can be painful, said panelist Steve Lastres, Director of Knowledge Management Services at Debevoise & Plimpton. “Sometimes you need to calibrate technology, so it meets the needs that the clients are asking for,” Lastres adds.

This is a key point — law firms need to consider the intended functionality of an application and map solutions based on this; not the other way around. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach is old news, and understanding how firms can uniquely add value to a client — based on that client’s individual needs — will help a firm stand out above the rest.

In fact, co-creating solutions with clients is the best way to demonstrate a collaborative culture, and it’s critical that this is integrated into all processes, the panel suggested. Another panelist, Anthony Vigneron, Legal Technology Solutions Director at Clifford Chance, explained some of the common barriers to technological collaboration within firms, including “a lack of data standards, a lack of app integration, and a lack of standard guidance around the user experience.”

No one said that seamlessly digitizing workflows would be easy, but law firms can learn lessons from other knowledge-intensive industries that have already been through the digital transformation process. Firms that embrace best practices, both within the legal industry and without, will be ahead of the curve in implementing successful collaborative strategy.

The most critical element of collaboration is to recognize the human beings at its heart. In 2020, this is more relevant than ever. Optimizing collaborative processes to be inclusive of all and to take into account people’s lives and responsibilities is an imperative, said panelist Bas Boris Visser, the Global Head of Innovation & Business Change at Clifford Chance.

“We really need to look after our people today more than ever to make collaboration successful,” explained Visser. “This is very clear from Acritas research — this is what it’s about.” The well-being of your people can make or break a firm’s strategy, he added, and ultimately, clients are talking to a firm’s people and not to its brand.

As we renegotiate what the working world will look like tomorrow, it’s important to focus on people, making sure that our processes, incentive structures, and workflows aren’t hindering collaboration today.


You can access the recent Thomson Reuters Acritas webinar, How Collaboration Increases Client Share of Wallet for Law Firms, available for on-demand viewing now.