The legal advisory market is undergoing fundamental changes: in light of legal tech, cost pressure, increasing professional specialization and transparency, corporate law firms need to work on their value proposition. In the second part of our interview series, Jacob Christensen shows how serviceability impacts the value proposition of law firms to customers.
What does Serviceability mean for a corporate law firm?
Christensen: This is possibly the category where it is the easiest to develop a style and approach that is unique for you and your team and something that hopefully many customers will value. There is probably not a “one style pleases all” solution to this challenge, and inevitably your team’s unique style will connect with some potential customers more than others. I think the key objective is to aim to develop a style and service model that is a “true and genuine” expression of your team’s key strengths and values, as this is something that probably can’t convincingly be faked.
How does that work in practice?
Christensen: Awareness of your team’s desired style is of great importance in connection with picking out team members. Of course in some negotiations or disputes you will need to adapt different approaches and tactics, but I think you will benefit from having a strong sense of your team’s preferred style and then tailor your SOPs around that with ad hoc adaption as the situation requires.
Can you give examples of factors your team uses to develop and apply “style”?
Christensen: Certainly. From the more general perspective, we started with a metaphor. We pictured our team as a Michelin restaurant competing with other very good restaurants and tried to come up with reasons why – assuming the price and culinary qualities being equal – customers should choose our restaurant instead of one of the others. Based on this exercise, we came up with a list of so-called “super-pleasing” aspects that – if implemented – hopefully would help create the best possible customer experience in as many customer interactions as possible.
But that doesn’t necessarily lead to a completely new approach…
Christensen: Indeed, many of the things we came up with are not exactly groundbreaking or rocket science. For instance, the notion that factors such as responsiveness and friendliness/likeability might enhance the customer experience is hardly surprising. Likewise it was easy for us to conclude that genuine team spirit would be something most customers would quickly sense and attribute a positive value to – just as probably the absence of true team spirit or “faked” team spirit would also be detected by customers and seen negatively.
Did you also discover factors that were a bit more experimental at first?
Christensen: Yes, one thing we did was trying to tailor the format of our services to match each individual customer’s preference. For instance some customers will prefer phone calls over emails and vice versa and often the preference may vary depending on the type of issue at hand. You might still get the occasional request for an old style memo e.g. if an issue is very sensitive, contentious or to be presented before a government agency, but it has also been well received when we experiment with output in the form of diagrams, flow charts and similar more illustrative formats.
How important is customer feedback?
Christensen: That’s a very important factor. You should try to get as much feedback as possible and thereby creating a somewhat empirical basis for your decisions. Inevitably, if you don’t ask, you will sometimes get it wrong even if you feel you have a firm understanding of the customer. Seeking and implementing feedback is also a great way of getting new ideas for improving your work. In addition to the vital response you can get from own face-to-face meetings and other feedback seeking efforts, great inspiration can also be found from other comparable service areas – basically from any area where the impact of value creation and value positioning has been analyzed. The basic idea is to have your toolbox as well-equipped and diverse as possible and to know where and when to apply which of those tools.
Which other factors play an important role when it comes to Serviceability of corporate law firms?
Christensen: Diversity is another hot topic where I believe you can make a difference to improve the overall quality of service. This goes for the more traditional diversity factors such as gender and cultural background but also when it comes to diversity based on different personality traits profiles. In our team all of us have had personality profiles made and shared between us, so we have a better idea of each other’s respective preference based strengths and challenges. This means that for strategic and other important decisions, we can bring in the best from all personality trait worlds and thus hopefully ensure that all relevant angles have been considered which reduces the risk of unconscious bias based exposures.
Another thing to mention is proactivity. The importance of this is hardly surprising, but again I believe it is an area where you can try to differentiate your team positively e.g. by creating systems to ensure that you catch all relevant future legislative developments at as early a stage as possible and map the possible – positive or negative – consequences thereof for your customers. One way of doing so is by being active in relevant expert committees and fora so you are not only apprised of news trends and proposals at a very early stage but also have a chance to comment on pertinent issues and complications and influence their outcome.