Challenging perceptions to innovate with confidence
Clear vision, making law firms smarter and leaner
Only 39% of RFPs received by KCOM during an 18 month period allowed or
encouraged suppliers to be
innovative. But more than half of
these prevented the development
of a strategic partnership – a
relationship that is critical to
creativity – leaving just 18% of
enterprise IT RFPs that truly
This review covers RFP's mostly from outside the legal sector, but our experience shows the same happening in law firms, in spite of new initiatives and developments on AI and process improvement.
In this insightful report on research by KCOM, they explore why the IT RFP process is failing to deliver on the key challenge of our time – innovating the customer experience.
The best IT projects are highly creative, innovative and collaborative. IT professionals everywhere are highly motivated to deliver on all these goals. But the IT RFP process is stifling these positive impulses with outdated and inflexible practices:
This report from KCOM analyses real examples of RFPs - admittedly outside the legal sector - and share their ideas on how to fix the problems that are holding businesses back.
Make sure your IT projects deliver on the innovation and creativity needed to meet customer expectations by heeding the guidance in this report.
DOWNLOAD the report here - check out the section at pages 12 and 13 in particular on " Things to consider procuring enterprise technology projects" and talk to us at Inpractice UK if you want to find out more about how we help law firms deal with this in the legal sector.
“Growing evidence reveals that firms define ‘giving value’ very differently from the way clients assess whether they receive it. There are three simple things a firm can do to get – and stay – on the same page as the executives paying their bills.” from the article below by James Bliwas.
Why does this matter?
As an example: Helping lawyers become more effective at “ Pricing” to agree and recover higher fees is high on the agenda for most firms at the minute and quite rightly too.
However, most lawyers still bypass the first critical step – listening to the client – which throws this and just about every other initiative that impacts on client experience, out of kilter. Not listening properly is likely to at least substantially dilute the results of many of the new initiatives in which progressive law firms are currently investing.
Listen to clients (and introducers too) at the beginning to make sure you are aiming to implement a solution that gives them what they value most; not what you think they do. The understanding that will develop at this point will establish a sound base for new initiatives, including management of client relationships themselves.
On our pricing example – Lawyers can only agree the “best” price that a client is willing to pay (whatever pricing model they use) if the client feels that a lawyer’s involvement helps or enables them to meet the challenges that matter most to them, in a way that works best for them. Business owners and execs are interested in how it impacts on them personally, on their role in the business and on the business itself – so you need to hear all of this whenever possible.
We say – talk to the owners or execs at the client business first to understand what they value (including what is currently missing), make time to explore new options; how the service could change to deliver more value for the client. Then base your pricing (process or relationship management as discussed below) on the components and value to the client of the new service and relationship; not the old – and the sooner the better if you want to retain good clients.
Lawyers can’t get the relationship or the service right for the client until they know what clients really “value”. Most think they do, but make too many assumptions when options and expectations are changing quickly; and where every client is different and developing at a different speed.
Many firms are introducing big and expensive changes on Process Improvement , CRM , Artificial Intelligence and wider Technology at the minute (again quite rightly), with the aim of reducing costs and improving service … but are these initiatives being developed with a real understanding of what different clients want from them – apart from a reduction in price?
How do you find out?
All 3 solutions proposed in this informative article (well worth reading) – from James Bliwas – involve 1 key step; “listening to clients”. I would take that further to say … listen to clients talking about their business, what is expected of them and their challenges, with an open mind and a clean sheet on what the “legal” service could look like. Be prepared to start again … and price the service that flows from this discussion – not the one you provide today.
Why do it?
Most firms miss the mark because they don’t dig deep enough, so don’t discover what could be done differently that might, for example, involve more or different collaboration, integration or communication … and more. Often “less is more” so there can be opportunities to cut out wasted time and steps on both sides; for the lawyer and the client. New options in these areas have been developing quickly; perhaps even faster and further with some clients than with many law firms.
There is also a tendency in reviewing relationships to look backwards, rather than forwards.
Talk about other aspects of the business that matters to clients … as well as price. There are usually missed opportunities to make the relationship stronger beyond the handling of individual legal transactions. What are they … for each client? Find them. Things that will keep the client coming back and justify a better return for everyone from the relationship. To find out what those opportunities are, take time out to discuss and explore options.
Then find ways to share this with your people to develop their understanding so that you can put meaningful new initiatives into practice. Modify current services, develop new, introduce better communication, collaboration and integration and whatever else it takes to help clients want to keep coming back.
Our Client Listening is NOT about “client satisfaction”. We focus on looking forwards in every relationship to new options and opportunities to do better and do more of what the client wants, willing to challenge established ways of working together; but few firms do this effectively.
MAKING IT HAPPEN FOR YOU
We can help you put together the plan and to make this happen for your practice.
To discuss how we can help you, please complete this contact request form or schedule a free telephone conference (confidential and with no obligation) with Allan Carton via the link a the top of this website.
DO THIS EVERY TIME
1. When you make a will for a client, ALWAYS ask ... this question.
2. Make sure you have a good quality leaflet available to send by post and/or email that provides useful insights into the role of an executor; well presented, with readable FAQ's - and an outline of who you are and what you do.
3. Send it and invite them to drop in for a chat to discuss. Ensure compliance with GDPR to get the executor's consent to you keeping in touch.
4. Add their names to your database and keep in touch with information about your practice and your services.
FOLLOW THROUGH BECAUSE ...
A] This is an easy opportunity to grow your client base quickly from people who can become clients for life.
This can produce n ew work for your private client team tomorrow
; maybe conveyancing, PI, their own wills etc.
Knowing about executors' responsibilities would be helpful
to the client and the executor.
D] These executors are amongst your best prospects for new business because your client should speak well of you.
E] They probably fit with the profile of people that you are likely to appeal to .
F] They may know your practice already, but that doesn't mean they will always use you. It's a useful prompt.
G] If they don't know you, this gets your name in front of them - in a good way.
H] It creates an opportunity to meet face to face - although most are more likely to come along when they need you.
It's more likely these executors will use you for their wills and probate work in the future - so do the same again!
WHY YOUR COMPETITORS DON'T ASK EITHER
It takes preparation, planning, coordination and commitment from everyone in your practice. Very few firms invest the time and effort because they don't recognise the potential and the lost opportunity, so it's worth some effort to get organised; others are reluctant to ask the question and few put enough effort into gathering, cleansing and using their client data effectively. So there are some key steps to take to be able to get the full return on this.
1. Make sure all your staff know that what matters most is making the clients comfortable, taking time to build a rapport with them, as well as doing the legal job well.
2. If you don’t have a reliable and user-friendly marketing/prospecting database
, get one organised now. You’ll have to set aside chargeable time to sort out a good system, but it’s an investment worth making. If you don’t have searchable records of executors, trustees and beneficiaries, as well as testators, set these up now, before your campaign begins. Otherwise, you will lose out on one of the best sources of new clients available to high street practices.
3. Sell your service as a joint executor. Don’t just tell your clients what you will do – tell them how it will make things much easier for the people they leave behind. Find out what matters to your clients, by exploring their ideas and fears on what will happen after their death and respond with practical advice.
4. Get your clients’ agreement for you to keep in touch and keep them informed. Add them to your mailing list and do actually keep in touch. To do this, you need to get your client and contact database in order. This should be an absolute priority for every law firm right now. Don't let the GDPR requirements inhibit your plans. Deal with them.
6. Invest some time in business development with your clients’ consent. Invite every executor and trustee into your office
when the will has been made to discuss their role and responsibilities, and your role in helping them. Give executors and trustees information to take away and get their agreement for you to keep in touch. Add them to your mailing list and do keep in touch. Again, you need that database.
MAKING IT HAPPEN FOR YOU
We can help you put together the plan and to make this happen for your practice.
To discuss how we can help you, please complete this contact request form or schedule a free telephone conversation (confidential and with no obligation) with Allan Carton via the link a the top of this website.
O ther related topics that might be of interest:
"What struck me most about the event (GC Summit Switzerland with an audience of about 80 Swiss GCs) was the fact that much of what Hamish spoke about centered on talking to and ultimately knowing what your client really wants and needs. This approach means going away from looking at the ‘what’ and much more at the ‘why’. Not how can we make our widget better but but why and how are our customers using it in the first place."
Valuable insights and conclusions
in this interesting article
from Catherine McGregor
, Editor in Chief of GC Magazine and Publishing Director at the Legal 500.
Part 2 of a 3-part series
of short articles. We explain how law firms are using "independent client
listening" to generate new business, strengthen ties with clients
(referrers and business partners too); to develop new service propositions
valued more by clients, innovate on service delivery and develop a
client-focused culture across the business. It helps lawyers to find tangible
new ways to differentiate from competitors and future-proof relationships with
“For the smartest firms the
opportunities are waiting to be seized, but it will take a dynamic and
questioning mindset and an ability to look at the business from the client’s
point of view, to be consistently successful.”
(The Age of the Client –
LexisNexis Bellwether Report)
Focus Initiatives on whatever clients value – make it tangible.
Law firms should combine independent “client listening” with other relationship, account and business development activities as all have a part to play.
We use independent client listening at the front end of most projects, to get a perspective for our clients - from theirs - about what they would value as tangible outcomes for them of the initiative we are about to work on. It helps dramatically to inform the project and the results our clients want to see from it.
Bear in mind that all our key areas of work have a direct impact on clients, so this is very pertinent. All are aimed directly at adding value to our legal clients’ services – revolve primarily around technology, client relationships (from CRM strategies and systems, through research and systems), process improvement (including “lean”) and development of the skills needed to make the most of these enhancements to the capability of the practice.
Client listening can be used in many different contexts, some of which we outlined in the first article, but overall it:
The best results are produced from one-to-one, face-to-face interviews and we are reluctant to carry out any relatively small scale initiative in any other way. As the numbers rise, it makes more sense to incorporate some other forms of listening; perhaps telephone calls or Skype for one-to-ones at a distance, but interaction is essential. Focus groups can be very productive too in the right situation, but can be expensive and challenging to coordinate for the right mix of people.
Listening Looks Forwards – Not Backwards
Client Listening is not about “client satisfaction” related initiatives, which have a big part to play too and are much more prevalent in the legal sector. They tend to look backwards at what service has been like, asking “how are we doing, what could we do better?”.
Client listening looks forwards to what the relationship and services should look like in the future asking “What can we do differently … to give you more value from our relationship and the services we deliver for you?”. Everything should be up for discussion - no holds barred. The past has got you this far, to establish the relationship, but expectations and possibilities have changed radically.
Independent Listening Produces Better Results
Independent Client Listening involves the introduction of an experienced, objective view to add a new dynamic and a different perspective. Our experience has shown that this involvement very often opens up new, totally unexpected, opportunities that would not otherwise have been identified.
Why this works so well, so often?
The business people we talk to have generally never experienced this kind of investment and interest in a relationship with them from a law firm before. They recognise it as exceptional now. Perhaps it wouldn’t have the same impact if all firms did it.
Being independent, we can talk candidly and very directly about their personal and business objectives . We can explore the concerns that could generally keep them awake at night to find out about them and their business world, setting specific legal services aside for good parts of the discussion. Experience tells us where to draw the line.
We assure them of confidentiality in any areas they don’t want attributed to them. In practice, it is rare for clients to exercise this right to anonymity, but it lets them talk without any inhibition or reservations.
We explore options; what might be possible – we don’t agree any actions, making that clear to the person we interview. It is agreed that we take their comments “back to base” for the law firm to chew over and come up with any proposals from there, with a clearer understanding of what the client wants to achieve.
We make it clear that we really don’t know anything about the detail of past transactions, which means we don’t get bogged down in that detail . We are only interested in looking at how the relationship and services should develop going forwards.
In that context, we can use our wide experience of the market for legal services and our research into their sector to identify (alongside our client’s views on untapped opportunities) to open discussion on their view of the legal service they want in the future. What could that look like for them?
You will find that Independent Client Listening can be used very effectively in a wide variety of situations to help develop your business. It should be a resource that every firm should use one way or another as a matter of routine.
Find out more about how we help lawyers introduce effective Client Relationship Management below:
“For the smartest firms the opportunities are waiting to be seized, but it will take a dynamic and questioning mindset and an ability to look at the business from the client’s point of view, to be consistently successful.”
“80% of lawyers think they’re delivering above average service … but only 40% of clients say they are receiving it.” (
The Age of the Client, LexisNexis Bellwether Report)
In this 3-part series of short articles, we explain how law firms are using "independent client listening" to generate new business, strengthen ties with clients (referrers and business partners too); to develop new service propositions valued more by clients, innovate on service delivery and develop a client-focused culture across the business. It helps lawyers to find tangible new ways to differentiate from competitors and future-proof relationships with clients.
PART 1: “Smart” Firms Listen to clients to gear up with confidence
To be one of these “smartest firms”, lawyers need to listen more intently than ever before to clients; to understand what the people who run any business envisage for their future. What they want to achieve … for the business and for themselves. You want to know what your practice can do to add more value to your service for them and to make it tangible.
The best way to find out about this is to ask and explore options; but ask with an open mind and a willingness to change, adapt and develop what you currently offer, to develop and deliver new service propositions.Independent Client Listening is …
Our experience shows that most lawyers need help to envisage – sometimes radically different - new ways of working with and providing services to clients and business partners; often involving more collaborative and integrated working relationships. With long-standing relationships, it can be very difficult to see the wood from the trees as handling day-to-day work the way we currently do becomes the norm. It is very difficult to consider any significant change, if it is all running along nicely; as it often does.
The way people do business has been transformed in even the last 5 years, with dramatic developments in IT, communications, working practices, efficiency, restructuring of business, working patterns, attitudes to collaboration, use of data and much more; all of which creates new challenges and opportunities. Every owner and manager in business clients you work with is considering how best to respond and capitalise on these developments – now and for the future.
Do you know what they are thinking and how best to respond? Every business owner, CEO, FD and COO thinks – just like you - that what they do makes a difference; they can’t all be thinking and doing the same. They are looking to play to their strengths and the strengths of their business to make them successful in their world.
How can you play some part in making that happen, even if only in some small way for now? What changes could be made in the way you deal with them and their business to help them achieve their personal and business goals and objectives? Breaking the status quo is otherwise very hard to justify.
Does client listening work? What are the results? Resoundingly, yes. As a direct result, we can demonstrate that:
This kind of approach enables your good people to get better in managing client relationships, which we see as even more critical for law firms going forwards.
The 10 Key Steps
We will elaborate on each of these in Part 3 of this series “Getting Started: How Independent Client Listening Works In Practice” but so that you can see what is involved here, those key steps are:
What does Independent Client Listening Feel Like?
We will explain in Part 2, why independent client listening is highly effective. For now, here are a few of the questions we are likely to include in the tailored “Discussion Topics” document that we use as the starting agenda for an interview with each client involved. Some examples to give a feel for just part of the territory we cover with most clients:
Find out more about how we help lawyers introduce effective Client Relationship Management below:
For more information or to discuss how this could work for your practice - in confidence and with no obligation - contact Allan Carton
on 07779 653105 or at email@example.com
Find out more about how we help lawyers introduce effective Client Relationship Management below:
Work harder to communicate and manage expectations.
It is no surprise that the Cloud Industry Forum, which exists to "champion and advocate the adoption and use of online (cloud-based) services by business and individuals" published research findings confirming that communication with users an managing their expectations require more attention than they currently get.
The main hurdle we have to overcome to make this happen is about releasing the expensive fee earner (and support staff) time to listen and engage when they otherwise see fee earning work as more of a priority! Structured effectively, managing this effectively to ensure a smooth transition that keeps people working after the transition is easily justified.
According to the report, firms are “finding the migration to cloud computing is not as straightforward as they first thought it would be.” IT staff, partners and senior managers often don’t appreciate the complexity around moving to externally hosted services; and service providers often expect that the firm will handle aspects of the project internally – this is not always clear.
We also find that hosting companies that have already dealt with law firms fare better because they have a better understanding of the challenges within law firms. However, law firms often under-estimate the effort that is appropriate. Investment of time here should, in any event, be a catalyst to further improve the performance of people and the business going forwards.
Users of a new hosted system want it to be provided with exactly the same familiar functionality as their old system; usable in the same way on day 1. However, that is not generally what they will get when the management team wants to introduce improvements ; ways of working that are different ... and better! It is therefore essential that users know what they can expect to see and experience that is different; and how to use it.
Otherwise users will understandably - but frustratingly - quickly conclude that “nothing works” or that ” this is all rubbish.” That negativity spreads quickly to others, providing ammunition for those employees that are resistant to change. However with effective planning, investigation, lots of cross checking and then effective internal engagement and communication in advance, most of this can be avoided.
Niggles are inevitable . The issues that arise can be very simple, but taken for granted; for example, it would be surprising if users do not understand that on day 1 of the move to a hosted system that they will have a somewhat different desktop. The extent of that difference will depend on your supplier and the solution you have agreed with them. However, it is unlikely that they will be able to find any “recent documents”; shortcuts and auto population of email addresses may have gone or changed, and they could lose their internet favourites unless they are copied across. How does printing work and what’s the best way to get support if there is a problem? How is this communicated?
Changes in functionality could be more fundamental or complex . For example, related to use of digital dictation, or the challenges caused by a new version of Microsoft Office, where people want the old familiar look and feel. How will printing work now? These are all aspects (and there are many more) that will contribute to either the success or failure of your project.
If you are considering a move to the Cloud or a hosted environment , speak to Frank Manning on +44 (0)161 929 8355 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about some of the pitfalls and to discuss how you can prepare your business to avoid them.
We can help
you anticipate and prepare your people to ensure a smooth transition, having learned from our experience in managing these moves over the last 5 or 6 years.
FREE CONSULTATION to plan your path and avoid the mistakes others have made.
“The audit and analysis they performed enabled us to increase the productivity of the Admin/Support team and reduce the costs of document output across the firm. Excellent use of our time and a valuable resource”
(Operations Director, Express Solicitors)
Our process automation partners, TBA Group
will introduce how they are working with other firms to reduce paper/print volumes, exploring how that can be applied most effectively in your practice to enable you to transition from Paper to Digital.
When it comes to funding the work on a project, TBA will share the risk with you so you pay ONLY a % of the agreed savings that result.
TBA’s Managing Director, Alex Hutchinson will cover all the key steps that ensure the success of a project. He will also discuss any areas where you would like to increase the Operational Efficiency of Documents within your practice, offering free advice on how to make this work in the context of your particular business, taking account of, for example:
There is no obligation to progress the discussion further. However, you will learn a good deal about how the TBA approach has successfully added value and increased the Net Profit of similar businesses; a win/win opportunity.
If you go ahead with a project: TBA Group’s fees are a % of agreed financial savings achieved so they share your risk and their goals are aligned with yours.
To book a consultation with TBA Group, email email@example.com or call +44 (0)7779 653105 in confidence, with no obligation.
Let us help you explore how you can use some tools to make this happen (to keep the momentum going), with confidence, using Simitive to help structure and manage engagement, projects and development of people .
Senior management in most law firms struggle to find or make enough time to engage and develop people; and to implement new business development initiatives on target. Nobody feels they have enough time, but much precious management time and energy is easily wasted through lack of consistent focus on what everyone is trying to achieve.
People – from the CEO or Managing partner to the office junior – work more effectively if they are helped to understand what they can do to make the best use of their skills and experience – and fill gaps as they become apparent; not having to wait for the next formal appraisal.
Many senior managers are too busy because they feel only they can do all of the jobs they do; eating up every second of the day. That does not make for a sustainable business. Management need to find a way to develop others around them to share the load, contributing more, with sound support to ensure results now and fill the gaps in skills and experience along the way.
Arrange a FREE Demonstration of Simitive for you and your team.
Simitive – developed and implemented successfully in other professional services sectors – provides a framework to support better and more effective, routine engagement of people in all aspects of the work they do; fee earning, management, projects, personal and business development, mentoring etc. Transparency and alignment of objectives and tasks enables managers to constantly review progress and provide input when needed, quickly adapting the plan by agreement as things progress. Internal communication, collaboration and innovation all benefit too.
The Simitive solution comprises 3 key components to add structure to management of your practice:
To arrange a demonstration contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why and how the CMgr “Chartered Manager” qualification can unleash the potential of managers in your law firm.
It is widely agreed that we need to develop more management skills in law firms to generate and implement the innovation and change that is needed now; to enable firms to differentiate their service and to find ways to deliver more value.
I hadn’t heard much about the Chartered Management Institute’s “Chartered Manager” – CMgr – qualification before. However, having researched it recently, I am impressed now by how it works; just as I was with Legal Service Apprenticeships a few years back , which have proved a big success in law firms.
Qualifying as a Chartered Manager is a relatively condensed approach to learning. It appears to fit better with the ongoing demands of the day job when compared with other similar qualifications. It is very practical, with live project work done as part of the programme and the results (researched and reported in depth in the report that you can download below) certainly appear to justify this investment to develop new skills and confidence in your people.
The snippets below might prompt lawyers and other managers to find out more about this as an option from your Learning & Development or HR Managers and Directors. Firstly, here are some assured comments based on personal experience from the CEO of Greater Manchester’s Police Federation who earned the qualification …
Some informative downloads:
NEXT STEPS? How to get on the right path for this qualification?
I suggest that you explore this new CMgr Programme Tailored for Managers in Law Firms due to run soon in London & Manchester.
Next Level Impact and e-Alliance (both specialists in learning and development in the legal sector) have combined their experience and resources to deliver a CMI (Chartered Management Institute) accredited programme tailored specifically for law firms. It takes account of, for example, the role of Lexcel and the SRA’s new competency requirement s for solicitors in both the structure of the programme and the “improvement projects” that are an essential part of the learning experience; also the obligations and opportunities created by ABS’ and other significant developments that impact on law firms.
The programme comprises condensed learning in 3 insightful Masterclasses, with the skills learned then applied in practice. Successful completion requires participants to deliver an “improvement project” within their organisation to demonstrate and support their progress towards recognition as an “Chartered Manager,” accredited by the Chartered Management Institute. Participants are supported by extensive online learning and research resources.
Participants become a student of the prestigous CMI on enrollment and then select the level of qualification they want to achieve, with their involvement then tailored to enable them to meet that level. They will become full CMI members on completion.
The 3 Masterclasses cover:
To explore further and discuss your particular requirements, please contact the Programme Coordinator, John Baxter on 01787 370735 or at email@example.com
A modern telephony system can enable your practice to increase fees and profits if you can see what is happening to incoming calls …
… but only (of course) if you use the information and additional features effectively to improve how calls are handled! Think more widely about the potential benefits you can achieve if you are considering an upgrade. Here is just some of the why and how.
Concert Networks’ findings from a recent “Secret Shopper” research into how law firms respond to telephone calls makes depressing reading if you are a partner in virtually any of the firms called. On average the callers waited on hold for 47 seconds. When you consider that callers become frustrated after being on hold for 20 seconds or more, it is clear that the industry has room for big improvements.
How effectively does your practice handle inbound calls?
You probably don’t know! If you do, it will probably be because you have already invested in a system with this kind of functionality that goes beyond just handling the call. Even then, are you putting it to full use yet? Maybe we can help you make it do more?
Concert Networks’ innovative Cloud Telephony with Call Reporting tools can give you information such as time to answer, call abandoned rate, time on hold and much more; and you can report on this information, giving department heads and senior management an accurate picture of each caller’s experience when they call your firm.
Reliable information to help constantly improve your use of resources