Last week, I explained the importance of staying up to date with the dizzying rate of change and innovation -- much of which, on its surface, may be hard to recognize the relevance of -- to avoid being left behind by clients who have exhausted their tolerance for laggard law firms and lawyers.


However, that’s just the baseline requirement. Generating business today requires that you abandon long-held beliefs and habits about selling, and embrace new ones that align with clients’ current expectations.

The distinction between legal service and legal service delivery is a recurring topic of discussion. This explanation by Mark Cohen in his Forbes article is particularly useful:

In-house legal departments and service providers have begun to re-engineer the law firm delivery method. They have identified ‘legal’ tasks—contract and document review, research, etc.— that can be addressed differently than the labor-intensive ‘brute force’ method of law firms. This involves a mix of legal expertise, technology, and process. The result: compressed delivery time and cost, budget predictability, efficiency, and mitigated risk. The early stage of digitization was, paradoxically, achieved via labor arbitrage (LPO’s), and later by a combination of labor arbitrage and technology (legal operations teams and service providers). This early stage of legal digitization convinced clients that not all legal functions must be delivered by law firms. That, in turn, spawned a heightened interest in technology, process and project management, new models, new providers, new billing paradigms, knowledge management, inter-disciplinary approaches to business challenges that involve legal issues (not ‘legal problems), new skills required of legal providers, and an openness to change. The pace of that change is accelerating and legal delivery is undergoing a radical makeover.

In What Does it Mean to be a Big Law Lawyer in 2018?, Stephen Poor, Seyfarth’s Chair Emeritus, urges a different mindset, too:

The reality, however, is that this more traditional notion of lawyer as “trusted advisor” is essential but no longer sufficient for most Big Law attorneys and has not been for some time. Client demands continue to change and require a different way of thinking about the delivery of legal services. To succeed in meeting changing client demands, a lawyer must be able to manage and relate to the variety of alternative services available and be able to successfully use those capabilities to solve the problems facing clients. For example, we need to understand technology and how it can be used to augment the ability of people to deliver legal services. We need to understand the roles filled by alternative service providers or other allied professionals and how they fit into the solution set. In short, as we peel off tasks from lawyers, we need to look at the business problem from the client’s perspective – not the firm’s perspective – and understand how to design solutions that solve those problems.


Essential but no longer sufficient

The kernel appears in Poor’s opening and closing sentences. What you’ve done for so long is “essential but no longer sufficient,” and you must sell integrated “solutions that solve problems” as defined by the client. Recognize that legal knowledge and expertise is only a component of an integrated solution, not a standalone solution. Through this lens, so-called alternative service providers (ASPs) are partners. They aren’t competitors, just as the electricians aren’t competing with the plumbers in house construction. Both are necessary, and must be integrated smoothly.

You need to learn how to recognize and appreciate the client’s actual business problem, which is the context that defines the relative roles of all the contributors and providers.

Relevance is the new anchor

You can see why I have long argued that relevance, not “relationship,” is the anchor of your marketing and sales philosophy. Using the AV/Banking example from last week, you can see that if you’re not continuously monitoring the banking industry, it’s unlikely that you’d intuitively recognize the emerging importance of autonomous vehicles to banks.

Understanding emerging issues is one thing, but unless you engage your clients, prospects, and contacts in discussion about these issues, they won’t associate you with them, and you’ll remain irrelevant despite your knowledge.

The question to ask yourself now isn’t “How can I get this legal work,” but “What is the complete solution to this client’s problem,” and “With whom must I partner to create an integrated whole?” (Wouldn’t this partnering mindset also solve the cross-selling problem inside your firm?)

Mike O’Horo

Acquiring and mastering business development skill is a three-part mission: Education, Training, and Coaching. Each produces a different outcome, and should be accomplished using different tools at appropriate cost.

  • Education produces understanding, awareness, context, but no skills. Like law school. The Dezurve content library lets you accomplish this easily, conveniently, and at trivial cost.
  • Training is the actual doing. It produces practical skills available to you when you need them in the real world. RainmakerVT online simulations and video courses let you learn and make your mistakes privately in our virtual world, at modest cost.
  • Coaching produces tangible success by guiding you to apply successfully the skills you learned.

Click on the links to learn more about each component. Contact me to discuss your situation and options.