Structured Dialogue re Delivery of Legal Services

I keep using the term “structured dialogue” to describe an
important piece of my Service
Delivery Review
. I want to dig into what I mean.
I believe law departments, law firms, and individual legal
professionals have an ethical obligation to do things Better,
Faster, Cheaper
wherever possible regardless of the economic incentives. But
the trouble with incentives is that they work.
As businesses, law firms really do need to concern
themselves with the return on investments in process improvement, training, or
technology. If we do X, will we get more business? Will our profits increase? While it is relatively easy to make the case as to how a particular innovation might
improve quality or reduce labor, it is less straight forward to demonstrate
that clients will actually care. And clients are a rather important piece of
the economic equation.

Clients are right to frequently give their firms low marks
on cost-consciousness and innovation (see chart above from George
). I am among those in-house counsel who have exhorted law firms to
be more cost-effective, efficient, tech savvy, etc. But where I depart from
many, but not all, of my former colleagues is that I recognize that adjectives
like “innovative” and “efficient” are vague. Nebulous mandates to ‘do better’
fail to offer much in the way of concrete guidance.
If a law firm were suddenly to get 10% more efficient, would
their clients notice? Would their clients reward them with more business? Or
would their clients continue to demand the same discounts and cut invoices by
the same amount? I don’t have the answers. But the problem is that no one else
does either. This inability to project ROI is an obstacle to making the business
case for investments in process and technology. The presumptions against law
firm efficiency are so ingrained that it surely not enough for law firms to
simply say they are efficient (which all of them already do). And it probably
isn’t even enough to be efficient (few are). It is likely necessary for them to
prove they are getting more efficient. But how?
Law departments and their core law firms should engage in
structured dialogue about what the efficient delivery of legal services looks
like. This starts with an honest mapping of the value stream. Identification of
areas needing improvement should be followed by prioritization and collective decisions
about deliverables, timelines, and measurement. This should be a true dialogue
in which both sides are accountable for achieving shared goals. Just as law
firms can do better at delivering legal services, law departments can do better
at sharing information and integrating their law firms into the client’s legal
supply chain. System
, rather than individual efficiency, should be the overarching

Structured dialogue should be an iterative process focused
on continuous improvement, not a discrete project. Previous initiatives serve
as the baseline for subsequent discussions. Where have we improved? What
difference did it make? What lessons did we learn and how can those lessons be
applied in selecting new priorities and establishing new targets?
Law firms should be more than just participants, they should stand to gain from demonstrably improving their value proposition and
fulfilling their commitments to better serve their clients. This may mean more
work. This may mean higher rates. This may mean less pushback on invoices
resulting in higher realizations and profits. Law firms must invest real
resources to improve service delivery. As businesses, they should see a return
on those investments.
To be more concrete, below is some
output from my Service
Delivery Review
. These are exemplar findings that seek to mesh what the
firm is doing with the client’s priorities. (Click to enlarge)
Importantly, these findings are
intended to be a starting point for dialogue. Once the dialogue is concluded, commitments, timelines, measurement, and deliverables will all be memorialized. Clear expectations follow informed, structured dialogue.


Casey Flaherty is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker. He believes that there is a better way to deliver legal services. Better for the clients. Better for the legal professionals. Better for the bottom line. Casey is creator of the Legal Technology Assessment, an integrated Basic Technology Benchmarking and training platform. Follow Casey on LinkedIn and on Twitter @DCaseyF.

See also:

Strategic Sourcing: The Service Delivery Review
Deep Supplier Relationships
Law Firm Realizations

from Blogger


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