Page 5 - ILO Client Choice Guide 2012

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ILO Client Choice Guide 2012
T
he International Law Office (ILO) Client Choice
Awards have now been running for the better
part of a decade, championing law firms that
embrace a philosophy that puts clients front
and centre when it comes to drawing up their
business strategy. But what about the profession
as a whole – is the general trend heading in the
right direction? And what are the potential costs
for those left behind? We spoke to some leading
corporate counsel from around the world, as well
as representatives from the winner of this year’s
Client Choice Award for Best International Law
Firm, to find out.
In today’s cut-throat legal market, there is
no doubt that client care has become a key
differentiator. Just take a glance at any number
of the profiles in this publication and you will see
the evidence that clients have grown ever more
sophisticated in their demands and expectations.
Law firms have no choice but to rise to the
challenge if they are to see their businesses
survive and thrive.
But remarkably – especially in these lean
years post-financial crisis – a lot of firms out
there are still making little or no effort to change
the way they work.
“I think there are still many law firms that
are closing their eyes and clicking their heels
together and hoping to go back to 2007,” says
Emily Jelich, vice president and associate general
counsel at the Royal Bank of Canada. “There are
a number of firms that have really embraced
change; there are some that have their hearts
in the right place, but are struggling to turn their
ideas into actions; and then there are quite a
few with which it’s not so much a case of the
vocabulary not being there – it’s the action
behind the vocabulary that is lacking.”
Jelich suggests that this schism is apparent at
all levels of the profession: among firms large and
small, similar proportions are either enthusiastically
advancing the cause of client care or blithely
(perhaps naively) persisting with business as usual.
This at least would suggest that resistance to
change is not down to a lack of resources; so
what, then, is stopping firms from taking a long,
hard look at their strategies and practices?
If any firms are labouring under the
misapprehension that a shift in approach would
make no difference to their bottom line, then they
should think again. Each and every in-house
counsel interviewed for this article warned that
poor client service would be grounds to cut the
instructions given to a firm, while a reputation for
good service would be a major plus point in
selecting a new one. Not only that, but those
firms that are making new strides in this direction
are finding that it pays handsome dividends.
“We monitor our performance very closely
and without a doubt we have seen our business
increase because of the way we work,” says
John Coleman, managing partner at Norton Rose
Canada LLP, part of Norton Rose Group, the
winner of this year’s Client Choice Award for Best
International Law Firm. “More importantly, I think,
is to look at it in the long term. Law firms aren’t
around for a day or a year or five years. The long-
term interest of the firm is to ensure that you make
every effort to form close, lasting relationships with
your clients. That means not taking the short-term
view of what you can get out of a file – mine it and
move on – but doing things in a way that will foster
a relationship that endures well beyond the
individual lawyers in the firm.”
“There are a number of
firms that have really
embraced change; there
are some that have their
hearts in the right place,
but are struggling to turn
their ideas into actions”
So how should those making their first forays
into client care focus their energies? What is it
that in-house counsel are seeking from a firm?
While there is universal agreement that first-rate
legal advice is still a vital priority, what has
become increasingly important is how this
advice is delivered and how the firm interacts
with its clients.
Only connect
Something that is sure to cause problems is a
failure to acknowledge the receipt of work or to
Who cares wins