Legal clients are looking for suppliers who intimately understand their business and their sector. As Neale Fisher of Croft Bender, an Investment Bank, points out, they want their law firms to listen and respond quickly.
"It's critical to have that partnership."
The effect is that the number of legal providers to a given firm is falling while the breadth of services offered by an incumbent rises.
To embrace this trend, over the last decade Baker McKenzie have introduced a Key Client Strategy. Kelby Luther explained the process as looking at the client and then building the team around that client to best service them.
"It takes a village to service the client".
It is a multi-practice and collaborative process that can have significant internal hurdles so it is important that the key account program is one that the partners really want their clients to be involved in.
She pointed out that there would likely be changes to the incentive structure for the lawyers and significant sharing of data so it was crucial to be very transparent with what you are doing. It was also necessary for there to be an 'active listening' process and for that feedback to be delivered to the lawyers as a training package before they engaged with the client. As a mind-set it was well summed-up as moving from Business Development to Client Development.
It is clearly a huge undertaking but you can see without a shadow of a doubt that the client would massively prefer this approach. So hard as it may seem, for big accounts, it seems unavoidable.
- Shout out to Thad Jampol of Intapp for an excellent job moderating.