What value added services do in-house lawyers rate most highly?
The Society for Computers and Law has come up with a top-ten list.
This list has not been magicked out of thin air. It is the result of the Society’s 2017 survey of in-house lawyers and private practitioners.
The survey asked in-house lawyers what value-added services they appreciate most from their external legal advisors.
It also asked lawyers in private practice about the value-added services they provide for their in-house clients and asked them to rank the cost of providing each service.
Full survey results are due to be published soon.
Meanwhile, headline results are known and they provide plenty of food for thought.
I was made aware of the SCL survey results via a Twitter post by Anthony Lyons (twitter handle @LegalTony). Anthony attended an event where the survey was discussed, took photos of some of the presentation slides and Tweeted them. So thanks to Anthony for his tweet.
Anthony’s original Tweet is below and, in case for any reason you can’t read my screen-grab clearly, I have recreated slide contents on a table.
According to the survey, it seems that law firms spend quite a lot of time and money providing some value added services which in-house lawyers do not actually place much value on, such as ‘thought leadership pieces’ (I believe there is some uncertainty surrounding the value attached to legal secondees and it will be interesting to see what the final report has to say about this).
Communication, communication, communication
What I find most interesting in the list of most highly valued items by in-house teams are items 2 to 5.
These are all about communications.
What in-house lawyers are saying is they want their external advisors in private practice to communicate more effectively with them.
Presumably the value-added element refers to the mode and format of the communications, such as online matter updates.
If my assumption is correct, I do not fully understand this line of reasoning.
I’m sure we can all agree that effective communications are essential.
But why should the mode and means of effective communications be seen as value-added?
Taking steps to ensure effective communications is something that project managers do every day. It is part and parcel of what (legal) project managers do.
Some examples of project based communications
A few examples of what project managers (including lawyers acting as project managers) do regarding communications:
- We create communication plans to ensure that all stakeholders are updated regularly (matter updates).
- We create documentation to capture and distribute information properly and appropriately (tailored bulletins).
- We create charts of various kinds and highlight status updates with Red, Green or Amber (RAG) flags or other visual representations of progress (dashboards).
- We conduct post project reviews, not least because by learning what works well and what does not we become better project managers (post matter reviews).
- Whenever appropriate, we will also use project management software (there is a lot of it about) to provide real-time updates of project progress (online matter updates).
Value-added or simply effective delivery?
In one sense its great to see that standard project management practices add value to legal service delivery.
On the other hand, shouldn’t we have gone past this by now? Shouldn’t lawyers simply be applying these techniques anyway, in their quest to improve the effectiveness of their client communications?
It seems from the survey that things such as post-matter reviews are still the exception rather than the norm – they are still not baked-in as part of legal service delivery.
Legal Project Management Training
It seems safe to say that lawyers of all kinds (not just those in private practice) are able to improve their communication effectiveness by applying key principles and practice of good project management.
Presumably they do not do this because they do not know what these principles are and how they can be applied to match the needs of their clients.
The best way of learning about these principles and how to apply them in the context of legal services is to attend a legal project management training course.
I am running a legal project management training course in September and there are still a few places left to fill. Why not join me and improve your legal project management skills?
I think your clients (especially in-house lawyers) would approve.