I had the privilege of attending the London Law Expo this week and was lucky enough to sneak in and watch a thoroughly engaging panel discussion around what it takes to form and sustain a successful collaboration between client and law firm. In this case, the clients were Mo Ajaz from the National Grid and Amy McConnell from Vodafone with the numbers evened up by Chair Andrew Haslam from Squire Patton Boggs and Richard King from Herbert Smith Freehills.
Interestingly to kick things off Richard suggested that it was the law firms that needed to bring to the table best practice and efficiency from a project management perspective. As always though it is the clients that hold the cards with on overarching theme being that law firms need to listen more to what is needed from a client perspective and as Mo Ajaz explained in detail at the national grid, they quite literally do hold the cards as they produce anonymized scorecards to actually rank the law firms in a number of areas!
Another overarching theme was that of behavioral change amongst fee earners but also the adoption of trial and error, test and learn approaches that lead to small scale deployment from both an in-house and law firm perspective. Amy McConnell suggested that to broaden horizons within her team, they have looked to change the culture and actually bring in best practice outside of the legal profession. This was a point that was reiterated by Richard King when he suggested that law firms and their clients should lean on the expertise that they have at their disposal outside of the fee earners. This part of the discussion was concluded with one of my favourite moments of the day when Andrew Haslam answered his own question- ' how many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?' to which he quipped, 'change, what's that?'
The final theme was geared around how and what do law firms call this division that works in collaboration with their clients? Richard King was keen to stress that at HSF this team is called client solutions and it was built to understand and engage with key clients in an open dialogue to solve their pain points. The discussion soon moved onto the fact that it doesn't really matter where things sit or what they are called as long as law firms are fluent in their client's language, terminology and fundamentally what the threats and opportunities might be.
Working at Passle in the tech industry, we are always looking to encourage our key clients to help us drive the product forward by aligning ourselves with their business goals and objectives. It seems that law firms need to do the same in this day and age but they need to add value over and above the standard legal advice. In house legal teams are no longer seen as the graveyard or safe option for lawyers that want an easy ride with expertise and the remit growing client-side, it therefore makes sense for law firms to collaborate in the best way possible and embrace the new exciting landscape.