Waves of smugness are now emanating from my little black soul. Why? I'll tell you. One word. "Vindication."
If you scroll down my blog posts, you will see a strange assortment of obscure references to philosophers (of various ilks), impossibly convoluted analogies, and, I confess, plenty of turgid prose.
But you've got to give me credit, at least I'm thinking of ways to break lawyers, and especially law firm managers, out of their molds, ruts, what have you. There is good reason for this: what you are doing, esteemed colleagues, is not working. Your clients have finally spoken.
That Falling Hammer
The only valid indicator of your future success, in my book, is how well you are serving your clients. Generally speaking, and given sufficient time, clients will go where they feel they are being served as they want to be. Which is to say, to be treated with respect, and served quickly. Given how consistently clients feel they have been poorly treated by attorneys since, well, the beginning of time, basically, and the fact that law firms are still billing away, one might be tempted to think that one can keep on plugging and profiting by simply tweaking here and there without wholesale paradigm-change. In other words, that the aforesaid "given time" can be indefinitely forestalled.
But those days are over.
Clients Have Spoken
Take a look at the recent BTI Consulting Group study (free summary here (the whole enchilada costs around 3 'g's)). BTI interviewed hundreds of the choicest clients on the planet. The verdict? This year, half interviewed claim they are doing to ditch their primary law firms and look for someone else. This year. Half. That's 50%. Even if we all hold hands and just play musical clients, there is going to be impact on the bottom line in terms of scrabbling for the next chair before the music stops. Thus, if lawyers continue to think that they can let their hubris go unchecked (client arrogance is one of the biggest complaints), think again.
With the specter of outsourcing looming its head, and the amazing facility of markets to fill needs, one way or another law firms are going to have to do more than spout "client service" and "one firm" slogans to get more clients, to say nothing of retain the ones they have. And now for the mandatory back-pedalling which so many lawyers cannot live without: even if the BTI study is flawed and over-stated, isn't at least the expressed wish to of 300 or so of the largest, richest corporate clients on the planet to change their primary law firms enough to give you pause?
Forget "regime change", we need "paradigm change"
And perhaps, just perhaps, your firm needs more than a cool seminar on marketing to get it together. Maybe your firm, maybe you, need to get your old assumptions knocked around a little, just to loosen things up. Maybe all my crazy posts on Nietzsche, Heidegger, de Maistre and Arendt could actually help facilitate that. Despite the fact that my "statcounter" map looks like the first day of chicken pox, I feel vindicated: I rant frequently that our industry must get off its collective duff and start reinventing itself--and we need to do more than open outposts globally--we need to open new outposts right here, in our minds, in our perceptions, in our way of interacting with clients. Now clients back me up.
Exploitation does indeed, begin at home. With me and with you. Exploiting our own creativity, our own innate ability to transcend the status quo, our own outdated perceptions.
And another thing: You lucky 20 who got to the top of the BTI customer-service list don't get a free pass. One telling comment about ubiquitous attorney arrogance and why some clients haven't yet decided to look elsewhere? "Well", said one client, "you just have to pick your battles." In other words, the client just doesn't have the time to look for another, less arrogant, more communicative, more understanding firm. Yet. If that isn't a kick to the gut, then maybe you need your nerve endings re-attached.
Here's the list of 20 firms that made it to the top.
subscribe to AD ARGUENDO now