I don't know what people are trying to tell me, but this afternoon I received more than a dozen emails with a link to an new ABA article on client satisfaction. The article quotes a recent BTI survey stating that only 30% of in-house counsel are satisfied with their outside counsel:
"Some 70 percent of corporate counsel surveyed—most from Fortune 1000 companies—were dissatisfied with their primary law firms. A little more than half of the corporate counsel reported they had replaced or demoted at least one of their primary law firms in the 18 months prior to the survey—largely without any more notice than a reduction in assignments.
The survey was conducted by BTI Consulting Group, a Wellesley, Mass.-based market research and management consulting firm. The results were drawn from more than 200 interviews between July and October 2005 with corporate counsel at large and Fortune 1000 companies across more than 15 sectors, including banking, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and high-tech. " - ABA Journal e-report
Doubt the numbers?
According to the 2005 ACCA/Serengeti poll of GC's:
"If outside firms do not meet expectations, in-house counsel are prepared to take action, with more than half of respondents (50.7%) indicating that they terminated relationships with at least some of their law firms during 2004. The primary reasons for termination remained the same as previous years: lack of responsiveness, too high fees/costs, and poor quality work/results." -- Serengeti Web site
On the ACCA.com web site, I found a recent (2005) survey illustrating 87% of in-house counsel have retained NEW counsel over the past year and 60% have fired primary counsel over the past year.
Let's check in with Inside Counsel (formerly Corporate Legal Times) for their survey of GC's:
"21% gave their law firms an "A".
70% gave them a "B".
8% gave them a "C".
1% gave them a "D".
Then, Inside Counsel asked law firms how they rank their relationship with inside counsel:
"52% rated it an "A"
25% rated it a "B"
7% rated it a "C".
What we have here, is a failure to communicate.
It gets better. IC asked both inside and outside counsel if they thought client service has improved over the past five years. 68% of law firms said they agreed that service has improved, but only 32% of inside counsel saw improvement. 34% of in-house counsel plan on firing one or more of their outside firms in 2006.
"What Clients Want In 2006:
The following is a list of clients’ most pressing needs and concerns, based on BTI’s research with more than 400 corporate counsel at large and mid-sized organizations nationwide. Keep in mind that client needs change every 18 – 24 months and be sure to stay in tune with your clients’ specific demands to avoid the pitfalls of declining satisfaction.
- More value from law firms
- Be in compliance
- Preventative legal strategies
- Streamlined operations
- Alignment between business and legal goals
- Document management solutions
- Proactive education and advice
- Litigation management improvements
- Reduced risk
- Practical business advice
The key to improving client satisfaction is in every client interaction. The professional services firms (including a handful of law firms) that have mastered client service successfully embed the above principles and tactics into their culture and daily lives.
Start small, add as you can and always remember the age-old truism, clients first."
So, what does this have to do with leadership?
All of this news would be shocking, if we didn't hear the same feedback year after year, report after report. The solution to improved client service won't be found in creative ideas, radical innovation, or technological improvements. It can only improve through cultural change in law firms, instigated and led by visionary and strong leaders who are willing to challenge the 'silo' mentality of most firms and re-align EVERYTHING the firm does to serve the client.
What are you going to do to change your culture, and align it to your clients?