Client Service Lesson #3: Business Process Matters

It is a buyer’s market out there.

Over the last two years, more than 5,700 lawyers have lost their jobs. The demand for many types of legal services is down. Competition for high-demand legal services has never been greater.

Being a good lawyer is no longer good enough. How you demonstrate value is equally important.

Law firms who understand their business processes — how they lawyer — and use that knowledge to streamline the way they work have a powerful advantage over those who don’t.

When I refer to business process, I’m talking about looking at the discreet services lawyers provide and understanding what steps go in to providing that service and for what cost. While there may be no “one size fits all” process, there are certain steps that happen every time and there are variables — most of which are known but not always predictable.

With an understanding of how lawyers in the firm work, it becomes easier to assess costs and evaluate ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the firm. And, it sets the foundation for sometimes difficult conversations about timelines, communication expectations and fees.

The ability to communicate the workflow of a case or a transaction helps simplify the management of client expectations. Consider the power of providing a client — at the onset of a matter — with a high level overview of what steps are involved, explaining the absolutes and discussing unknowns. Additionally, you can tee up sometimes challenging conversations about timelines, communication expectations, and fees.

Beyond communication, a more advanced understanding of the business process also provides the foundation for developing value-based billing arrangements. The desire for pricing predictability is well established in 2010. For law firms, the key to responding to this need, is to understand the cost of their own business. Documenting the business process of common matters is the first step.

To learn more about the benefits of client service teams, check out my article, “Client Service Teams: Lessons from the Trenches.”

Posted on August 4, 2010 in Client Teams, Knowledge Management, Law Firm Management

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