Underperforming law firms, take cover. According to the latest Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Chief Legal Officer’s Study, nearly half of corporate clients say they will more than likely shed at least one lagging law firm this year.
But it isn’t all bad news. According to the report, there’s still plenty of opportunity for firms that set themselves apart from the crowd.
“GCs are getting savvier about how they buy legal services and law firms need to become more business-like in how they package and sell their services to clients.”
Mr. Whitmore should know. Under his sales leadership, LexisNexis saw a sizable uptick in 2016 sales of its InterAction customer relationship management (CRM) software to law firm customers.
He credits the surge in sales to a fiercely competitive legal environment and pent-up demand across the legal landscape, especially in mid-sized firms. These firms in particular are beginning to see value in using tools like CRM software to help them better manage their marketing efforts and client relationships, while also preserving their business assets in an increasingly demanding and contracting legal market.
“Mid-sized firms are starting to find ways to use CRM tools to solve their business challenges. They are taking a second look at these solutions and seeing how to make them work for their needs.”
According to Mr. Whitmore, the spike in InterAction sales can be credited primarily to an increasingly competitive mid-market landscape, defined as firms with 75 to 200 attorneys. In previous years, InterAction sales were clustered primarily among AmLaw 100 or AmLaw 200 firms. While the largest law firms were still well-represented in the 2016 new-customer count, there were more mid-market firms than usual, along with customers from the non-legal world also.
This is notable, says Mr. Whitmore, because in his experience, law firms have historically viewed CRM technology as too big or unnecessary for law firms in the mid-market. InterAction sales for 2016 told quite a different story.
“Regardless of size, clients want their outside counsel to become an extension of their team,” Mr. Whitmore says. “The more law firms can communicate with them in the right place, at the right time, these relationships become greatly enhanced.”
In the past, he adds, long-held existing relationships were the main thing law firms needed to sell business. In this new environment, though, it’s more important for law firms to manage and nurture the myriad information that goes along with those relationships in a more strategic and business-minded way.
If clients see the value in the work their law firms provide, adds Mr. Whitmore, it becomes much less likely that the work will go simply to the lowest bidder.
“The key for law firms is to become true business partners to their clients so these relationships become indispensable to them.”