Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Are Lawyers Blind to Change?

The Altman Weil 2016 Law Firms in Transition survey reported that 59% of firm leaders expressed an unwillingness to change because clients do not require it, and 56% said they are not motivated economically to implement any changes. 
And in a survey at the recent Managing Partner Forum conference, 66% of attendees said that law firm strategy has not changed at all, despite the recognition that disruptive change is occurring in the industry.

What would Darwin say?! 
It's hard to muster the troops to change when you don't have clients demanding change. After all, we're a client-centric industry responsive to our clients' needs. Surely, if they needed us to change they'd tell us, right? Our clients love us!

But it may be just because they love us that they don't demand change. Change is a difficult and complicated conversation. It's often heard as a request for discounts. And most clients probably don't think they need to have that conversation with outside counsel. "They are big boys. They know what's going on. I shouldn't need to tell them".

Furthermore, clients are likely to experiment first with alternative providers. It's prudent on their part to test the waters before committing to a new direction. Why upset a valued provider/partner before you're sure an alternative is better?

Think of the client's you've lost over the years. Unless you screwed up big time, the exit was most likely gradual. In fact, most transitions to new providers are barely noticeable. The firm frequently doesn't 'catch on' until it is too late.

Today, law firms compete with a lot more competitors than they did even a decade ago. And the competition is no longer only human. Yet, most of us haven't changed how we monitor client retention or even our attitudes about client loyalty. History is not loyalty. Loyalty doesn't trump earnings.

Let's be clear. Client's are driven by their bottom line. Business is designed to find the lowest cost, most efficient inputs. If your inputs can be replaced by more efficient, less costly providers, you will be replaced. If you aren't continuously adding better value, someone else (or something else) will. And more than likely, your clients won't tell you about their plans. They'll assume you're smart enough to figure it out on your own.

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