Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the LMA’s P3 conference, which brings together "pricing, project management and practice innovation experts to discuss the use of various tactics to explore solutions to real issues face by law firms today."
I’ll be publishing some recaps for the conference in the coming days, since there was a LOT of high-level meaty topics and conversation happening in and around the event. But today, I wanted to bring you my two takeaways from the conference. As always, there are more than just two to discuss, but we’re focusing on these today! Feel free to add any other takeaways in the comments below, or just add your comments to the discussion!
Takeaway One: Pricing & Process Improvement Can’t Happen in Silos
Just before the conference, ALM Legal Intelligence released a special report on Pricing Professionals: Essential to Law Firms, an Ally to Clients (report available for purchase). I’ll be talking a bit more about this in the coming days as well, but I read through it in preparation for the conference, and the main thing that struck me is that we’re only now seeing an increase in integrating process management with pricing.
Tim Corcoran (@tcorcoran) (who was on a unique panel at P3 with Catherine MacDonagh, John Byrne and Amy Hrehovcik) put it perfectly in a post-conference interview he conducted with LexBlog:
We spend all this time coming up with the right budget, and then we go deliver the work the same old way and we don’t adhere to the budget. And either the client says ‘I don’t want to pay anymore’ or we end up taking a hit to our profits because we can’t bill more but we spent more time working than we needed to."
In order to meet the demands of clients to give them work more cost-effectively while maximizing the firm’s profitability, it’s essential to consider both of these pieces together. About 75% of large firms have or are working to integrate these, but is that the case at your firm?
Takeaway Two: No more "Should we do this?" but "How can we do this?"
We hear a lot that legal is "different" to other industries because it’s a "profession" and not a "business." While there are certainly some specialized things about the legal industry, whether or not you want it to be a business is no longer important. Clients expect you to be making smart business decisions within your own firms, so that you can work with them cost-effectively.
Thomson Reuters brought some excellent highlights from the conference on their LargeMidLawInsights Twitter feed, including this one:
Live from #LMAP3: "To implement successful change at a law firm, have the proper mindset: ‘I need to do this because my clients want it.’"
We’ve said it before, that lawyers are one of the only groups of people that treat client interactions as if they are the clients (this sentiment comes right from client panels I’ve attended, I’m not just trying to be provocative).
But today, we’re in such a competitive marketplace – not only competing with other law firms, but also with other types of providers and in-house counsel themselves. So if your firm and attorneys haven’t already started the shift that puts clients above all else, you’re way behind.
Okay, so we know we SHOULD be doing this, and the question now is how. P3 examined a number of different ideas, which we’ll talk about in the coming days. But for those of us who are convinced, and having trouble selling it within our own firms, here’s another great tip from Thomson that came out of the conference:
Live from #LMAP3: ‘To overcome cultural barriers, be the customer’s voice, create a process & give attorneys proper tools.’"
As we know, moving the needle forward within law firms takes time – it’s like turning an ocean liner around. But it’s worth the effort, because we’re talking about making smart changes that will benefit clients AND make law firms more profitable, and who doesn’t like a win-win?