Hong Kong Lawyer

October 2017

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For several years now, law firms have found a benefit to outsourcing specific administrative and operational functions including some IT and finance tasks. Firms are now looking at ways to minimise marketing expenses through outsourcing. Some of these areas include intelligence – competitive, market, client, and industry – and database management, public relations and event management. M ost firms know we are in a mature legal industry. While the past few years have certainly been interesting and challenging, the tipping point has yet to come. Most law firms have focused on carefully managing growth and enhancing overall profitability. Are we there yet? Not exactly, but fortunately there is more that firms can do. Clients continue to be more demanding and sophisticated. Initiatives geared towards lowering overall legal costs (eg, rate "push back" and consolidation of the number of firms being worked with) are putting extra pressure on incumbent law firms. This pressure is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, and will be particularly prevalent on more commoditised services. Firm leadership has no choice but to aggressively deal with this reality. One of the best strategies to deploy is a firm- wide client planning strategy. Unless it comes from the top, its sustainability is quickly diminished. Most firms have embarked on this process, but while there are client team initiatives in place, we suggest that client teams need to become a key part of the firm's overall strategy for driving talent acquisition and retention, revenue generation, succession planning, and new service development. What would be the impact if your firm's top client cut their billings to you by 40 percent? What if they were acquired by a company that has a relationship with your top competitor? What if they issued an RFP designed to consolidate the number of firms they work with? The ability to take advantage of these situations is dependent upon anticipation and planning. We all know that time is money, particularly in a law firm. If lawyers aren't spending their time billing, there may be a palpable impact on revenue. Enter the new client relationship manager model: the Strategic Account Manager. Most firms will state that they engage in key client planning, but our research has found that most efforts are token at best, with the primary benefits being an increased awareness of keeping key clients happy, and a focus on the firm's goals (eg, grow revenue, pitch new opportunities) versus aligning with the client's goals. Additionally, many client teams are run by partners who have little or no training in managing an account team, and not a lot of time for doing so. Ongoing execution of the plan, something lawyers also historically struggle with, is what makes client planning work. If firm leadership is leading the client retention and planning effort, and part of that strategy is hiring experienced professionals trained at managing clients and growing revenue, then firm leadership is directly impacting firm revenue in a positive way. PRACTICE MANAGEMENT 執業管理 Retaining and Growing Clients – What's Next? By Silvia Coulter, Principal LawVision Group 70 www.hk-lawyer.org •  October 2017

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