When law firms do not provide adequate legal services, clients seek new counsel. But when it is the delivery of those servies that is inadequate, they often accept the status quo, which negatively impacts client satisfaction as well as outcomes such as the cost, speed, accuracy, and quality of legal services. According to a study conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel, when law firms were questioned as to why they were not doing more to change the delivery of legal services, the response was that clients were not asking for it.
The ACC’s guide, Unless You Ask, is a worthy read of 82 pages, and covers in detail numerous topics that will ehance the attorney-client relationship. In this blog post, we present 10 questions in a similar vein for clients to ask their outside counsel that will facilitate the improvement of legal services delivery. These inquires focus on communication, transparency, and value, and are designed to foster smarter partnerships. For your current litigation firms, consider using these at an annual check-up meeting and to establish goals for the relationship. For firms you may potentially work with, the responses to these questions will indicate whether or not they are committed to improving legal operations and the delivery of legal services.
- What are your firm’s Knowledge Management practices? How do they fit into the day-to-day work of attorneys and paralegals?
- What Knowledge Management systems or software does your firm use for other clients that could be used for our work together?
- Does your firm prepare project plans for litigation matters? If so, please provide examples.
- What technology tools do you use to manage, track, and calendar litigation matters?
- What are your capabilites for reporting/visibility into the status of our matters, including staffing, performance, budget vs. actual?
- What types of data can be made available to us regarding our litigation matters, such as projected costs, outcomes, staffing, turnaround time, etc.?
- What is your firm’s timekeeping policy and/or billing protocol? How is this policy enforced?
- What software does your firm use to capture time and generate invoices? Does it have the capacity to provide clients with real-time updates on timekeeping?
- How are you improving the speed, accuracy, and informational value of time entries?
- How does the firm organize and maintain client files? How are these files made available internally and to clients?
You may notice that this list does not discuss two significant components of legal services: staffing and rates. We do not address these issues because law firms are most frequently selected based on staffing (who will be working on the matter?) and rates (are these rates reasonable and appropriate for the matter?), and clients and firms are well-versed in discussing adjustments to both. So what is the goal here? The goal of these questions is to improve processes and enable you to select/encourage firms to deliver legal services in a manner that is more deliberate, usable, and strategic, and to improve the value of what you receive without adjustments to staffing or rates. By asking for changes that are the most critical and meaningful to your organization, your firms will be able to enhance the provided value, ultimately strengthening your relationships.
Learn how Vector Legal Method can bring improved communication, transparency, and value to your litigation team.