Without question, successful businesses are dynamic, adapt quickly and succeed in “any” economic climate. As a business lawyer, I have the benefit of working with and learning from hard working clients (with businesses large and small) who, time and again, rise to the challenge, accept the economy for what it is, make the necessary investments and take the necessary steps to adapt and succeed. Instead of hearing complaints about the economy or bad luck, they focus on expansion, the refinement of business systems and adding customer value.
Law is a business that is governed by the same set of “business principals”. That is, to be successful, a law firm must be driven toward continuously developing and improving the critical systems and legal skills/assets necessary to consistently deliver “client value“.
So How Do You Achieve Client Value?
“Client Value”, as a matter of fundamental business principals, can only be achieved by evaluating the interaction and balance between (a) the legal fees charged , (b) the timeliness of the legal services rendered, (c) the quality of the legal services rendered, and (d) the priority of the legal project as measured by the significance of the client’s business systems and/or goals that are supported or protected by the underlying legal services.
Basically, no one factor tells the story and only by combining a clear understanding of the clients business, business goals and business systems can a law firm deliver “valuable” legal services that balance all four factors. Some examples to consider:
- Value cannot be achieved by a low legal fee if the legal services rendered fails to address or recognize future litigation contingencies that although not certain could be addressed and mitigated today;
- Value cannot be achieved by excellent legal services, if they result in high fees on a project or legal matter that will have little significance to the clients business or liability exposure;
- Value cannot be achieved by moderate legal fees if the legal services do not meet the time line necessary to actually support the client’s business.
The Value of a Small Focused Law Firm and Why Many Large Law Firms Can’t Compete?
Today, with the specialization of legal skills, the expansion of technology resources and the refinement of business systems, the “experienced” small law firm or lawyer that possesses specialized and tested legal skills possesses a unique ability to deliver and offer a “client value” proposition that cannot be matched by the large firms. This is due to (a) the ability of the specialized lawyer to deliver a work product equal to or better than the large law firm, and (b) the imbalance caused by the large firms extensive overhead and the financial resources and salaries committed by large law firms to “inexperienced associates” – associates who will be working on your legal matters.
What I am proposing is not universal (i.e. there are many large firms that I have witnessed deliver excellent value for particular matters) and that you should not decide on the retention of a law firm based solely (or primarily) on the size of the firm or the number of lawyers . Rather, focus should be placed on the skills of the individual lawyer that you will be working with and what factors the lawyer evaluates in delivering legal services and measuring “client value”. My Bet, the specialized and experienced “small firm” lawyer will win this balancing act every time.