What do GCs really think of law firms? [Swedish market]

The legal market is changing. In order to find out what this really means in terms of the relationship between service providers and clients, Day One conducted a mirror survey on the Swedish market.

A mirror survey asks the exact same questions to two different sets of people. Last year, it was time to survey general counsels and managing partners. We asked them a mix of both open ended and multiple choice questions.

With more than 20 general counsels of large companies and about 10 managing partners of law firms, here are some of the results:

Change!

Everybody wants it: 82% of the general counsels and 75% of the managing partners see a need to change the current law firm business model. This means that there is a need to reflect upon topics such as:

  • Pricing
    • AFAs
    • Fixed rates
    • Retainers
    • Lost-deal discounts
  • Level of value added
    • Not all legal work should be given the same amount of attention. There might be an opening for law firms with business models that are adapted to low cost
  • Law firm structures
    • Partner/senior/junior/paralegal/assistant
    • Fee sharing
    • Owner structure
  • Use of IT
  • Etc.

 

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The search for efficiency goes on

As in all other areas of business, efficiency is a buzzword. GCs look for efficiency both in-house and with their external service providers: obtaining maximum output with minimum input. They understand the risks at play and are tired of the belt and suspenders approach, without any real connection to what’s really at risk. What they want is not the elimination of risk, but rather assistance in taking risks that, in view of the business objectives, could be considered well-measured.

Another area where we most saw a need for improvement was in project management. Both GCs and MPs agreed on the fact that this is an area in which lawyers do not excel. Most didn’t put it as a number one priority. However, they “get pissed when [they] receive the invoice and realize that the project has been poorly managed”. In other words, while you may not gain clients by having a stellar project management reputation,  you might very well lose the ones you have without sufficient project management skills.


 Today, with high fees, we and others require that [lawyers] have an efficient project management so that you don’t need to pay for unnecessary hours.”

A General Counsel, about project management


Woo me

Even though both buyers and sellers of legal services are becoming more and more professional, this is still a market where relationships are important. With this in mind, it was somewhat surprising to find that many GCs feel as if law firms don’t nourish their client relationships enough. Many of them lack follow-up and requests for feedback after big projects, and find it surprising that while “you can’t buy an insurance online without getting a satisfaction survey,” law firms never reach out to see what they could have done differently or how they could improve for the next time.


 I’m surprised that they don’t spend more time trying to figure out what the clients actually think of the service provided. In other sectors they do it constantly. You always get the possibility to answer surveys, and we do it internally.”

A General Counsel, about client satisfaction


Some GCs even would have liked the law firms to give feedback on what the legal department could do differently to ensure that the next project would be better handled. Most agree that a simple phone call would suffice. In short, and to borrow from one of the most successful Swedish ventures ever: “Ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call?”