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Profitability

Position your firm to succeed in an ever-changing legal market

Can your firm provide top-tier clients with the services they demand?

You might think so. You and your colleagues can point to your expertise and years of experience. But in today’s marketplace, those attributes are no longer enough. There are plenty of firms that can say the same. But outside of a few specialties, the legal services industry is predominantly a buyer’s market.

If your firm has ambitions to earn work from large clients, you have to do more to set yourself apart. You have to be able to provide the kinds of services these organizations need. And you have to be able to prove your value. These days, large clients are under more and more pressure to keep their own costs down. And they need legal partners that can help them do just that.

Firms of all sizes can compete for elite clients’ business

The good news is that your firm doesn’t have to be an AmLaw100-size behemoth to get a place at the top-tier table. But you’ll probably need to do business differently than in the past.

This “new normal” is explored in a recent white paper from Thomson Reuters, “Navigating the New Legal Landscape: Why traditional client service and competition models are no longer viable.” To remain successful, firms have to cultivate a deeper understanding of their client needs today. They can’t assume that all they have to do to attract and keep business is market their expertise.

What do today’s legal clients want?

Today’s clients want their legal representatives to provide work of the highest quality. Nothing new there. What is new is that these clients also are seeking value from their legal spend. Firms seeking to keep or add lucrative business need to be able to show that their services add value to the client’s own work.

Here’s an example that comes from Thomson Reuters’ 2020 State of Corporate Law Departments report. The report’s research discovered that more and more corporate law departments are looking to their outside law firms to be more flexible in their billing. That way, they can better manage their short-term cash flow. In other words, today’s clients are requesting that the legal service providers work with them to manage and lower their own expenses.

Clients are looking for firms that can act as partners in their businesses, whatever that business might be. They need a firm that can respond quickly and nimbly to their needs, particularly as those needs change.

Being a nimble service provider will likely require that your firm make itself familiar with more than one area of the law. Make no mistake: Having a specialty is still important for positioning your firm in the marketplace. But showing that you can add another area of expertise when a client needs it can position your firm to win and keep a larger client’s business. In an effort to help keep expenses down, a client would rather deal with one firm than several.

What if your firm can’t provide the value clients demand?

Your firm’s track record might earn it a lucrative, big-name client. But if that client finds out that you can’t provide the range and quality of services it needs at a price it’s willing and able to pay, that client will move on, and fast. They’ll find another firm or perhaps tap an alternative legal service provider (ALSP). Some larger firms and businesses might opt to keep the work in-house.

Your firm will have lost a big opportunity. And in today’s competitive market, that loss could cost you additional business in the future.

How can your firm stay competitive?

As we noted earlier, the practice of law has become a buyer’s market. Firms that know what their clients need, and know what their competitors can provide, can position themselves as the partners that clients require. If your firm can provide that kind of partnership, it will position itself to take advantage of new opportunities that the changing legal marketplace offers.

Download our white paper to gain insights into the current legal landscape.

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