Every year about this time some of the major research and analytic minds focused on the legal services industry publish their annual reports or studies.  Citi Private Bank/Hildebrandt Consulting LLC’s Client Advisory was released on December 14, 2017 and contains a wealth of information and perspectives about what happened in 2017 and what might be expected for 2018.  The Georgetown Law/Thomson Reuters/Peer Monitor 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market likewise is full of data, analytics and thoughts about the transforming legal market.

A third renowned resource, Altman Weil, Inc., publishes its always anticipated Law Firms in Transition Survey with its 2018 edition to arrive sometime this spring.  While the market waits for the Altman Weil 2018 Survey its 2017 Survey contains important information and perspectives that are valid today, especially when digesting the Client Advisory and the 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market.

Each of the foregoing advisories/reports/surveys are commended for your review.  While each presents information worthy in its own right, a portion of the 2018 Report is particularly interesting for firms thinking about the challenge faced for 2018.  For any law firm leader searching for guidance for the future, it provides useful perspectives.  In the 2018 Report, there are some key takeaways worth noting.

Be Proactive.  The 2018 Report cites to evidence that successful firms meet client needs through changed service delivery approaches prior to being told by the client that a change in delivery is desired.  Proactively focusing on staffing, pricing, work-flow, and technology tools as a means to deliver better legal service is not only appreciated by clients, but it helps law firms seize the initiative about a discussion that is inevitable.  Making your firm more responsive to client need prior to the client feeling compelled to raise concerns not only helps a law firm frame the discussion with the client, but the time a firm takes to develop its proactive approach makes it more fully informed about the important issues at play.  Being proactive on the important elements of legal service delivery likely will improve a firm’s performance.

Don’t Fret About a Firm’s Size or Market.  The data cited in the 2018 Report indicates that the success of the proactive firms does not depend on their size, their market location, or even whether their accepted rate increases exceeded the rate increases of the less successful firms.  According to the information cited in the 2018 Report, focusing on improved legal service delivery transcends issues of law firm size, market location, or any implication that more successful firms are simply blessed with better clients more willing to accept higher rate increases.  Rather, the fundamentals implemented by proactive firms dutifully focused on the correct issues delivered results regardless of common conceptions that dramatic results are only enjoyed by AmLaw top 25 law firms dominant in money center or prime commercial locales.

Resulting Improved Communications Improves Results.  An apparent by-product for proactive firms is that they believe in what they have to offer and communicate about it with their clients upfront.  Having thought through a dynamic proposal leads to a willingness to discuss and defend it with clients at inception rather than waiting until later.  After all, a new proposal intended to replace the status quo must be vetted with the client before it can be implemented.  Clear communication at the outset greatly reduces misunderstandings, establishes clear expectations, and is more likely to put law firm and client on the same page.  The outcome is predictable.  Communication as the work begins improves realization and speed of collection.  Simply put, good communication is worth its weight in gold.

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money.  Proactive firms not only focus on improved service delivery, but they realize success depends on a commitment to investing in the present and in the future.  Well placed dollars invested in business development training may increase a firm’s overhead, but among the more successful firms that kind of investment frequently pays dividends.  Similarly, firms showing better results often are more willing to invest in technology to improve their service delivery, staffing strategies, pricing models and work-process improvements.  Proactive firms enjoy success not because they pinch pennies better than peer firms, but because they spend money on needed investments wisely.

In the legal services industry, the drumbeat of change pounds incessantly.  As the 2018 Report suggests, relying on the status quo is not the way to address any percussive annoyance. Can your firm take the initiative and modify its operations to enjoy greater success in 2018?