Game: ‘Questions to ask your deal team about why your customer is happy to pay your fee?’

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Came across the bones of a really interesting game you can play with your deal team at your next after action deal debrief/lessons learnt meeting.
Handout a piece of paper to each of your deal team members and ask them to rank, in order of priority, the top 5 reasons – from the following list – why the customer is happy to pay your fees in full (no discounts/write-offs, etc allowed):
  1. Demonstrated an understanding of the customer’s business/industry throughout the deal
  2. Demonstrated an understanding of relevant law
  3. Responsiveness to customer’s requests – phone/email/meetings
  4. Built good rapport and a trusting relationship during the deal (was in the trenches with the customer)
  5. Used expertise to help save the customer money (either on the deal or fees)
  6. Used Legal Project Management techniques to stay within the deal scope and didn’t allow scope creep without first taking to the customers
  7. Used technology, AI, Legal Process Outsourcing and value adds to make the customer’s life easier during the deal
  8. Offered the customer a great discount
  9. Hourly rate was attractive to the customer
  10. Any other reason(s)

Remember, they can only pick 5. And they need to be in order of priority.

I would love to hear feedback on which five were the most popular chosen.

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Thinking of starting a podcast?

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Over the past week I’ve had three different people inform me that they were starting podcasts and ask me if I would be willing to be interviewed. Honoured as I am by such requests, I did also wonder why such interest in me and podcasts more broadly?

In mulling this over I recalled a recent podcast (5 June 2019, Podcast #227) between Sam Glover and Bob Ambrogi on ‘The State of Legal Blogging & Podcasting‘ on the Lawyerist podcast.  Listening to this again today it struck me how many great tips these two give out (for free) to anyone looking to start a podcast; some of which are (fast forward to 29 minutes into Sam’s talk to really get the best out of these):

  • are podcast a fad or here to stay?
  • has the revenue model for podcasts been worked out?
  • have we really thought through the market penetration issue (more people don’t listen to podcasts than do)?
  • is there too much content already out there? if there is, what are you doing to be a little bit different?
  • how often should you be producing material – daily, weekly, monthly?
  • should you be framing your podcast with music at the start and end?
  • what equipment should you be using?

Taking all that on board and still want to produce a podcast? Then these are three things that Sam and Bob say in their podcast that should also be considered:

  1. it’s more work than you think it is going to be
  2. it’s really tough to build a subscriber base
  3. the right people over lots of people (love this saying)

On that last point, independent of Sam and Bob’s chat, I also heard this week that the average podcast lasts 7 issues.

To help you overcome this, Bob makes a brilliant suggestion in the podcast – if you are attending a conference take your recording equipment with you. And someone who does that really, really well is Ari Kaplan.

I hope you enjoy all the links. Listen to them – they are great (and free!); and, as always, love to hear your thoughts/views/feedback.

Does your firm include client feedback sessions as part of its client agreement?

80% of firms believe they provide a great client experience. Only 8% of clients believe the experience is great.

In last week’s PSM podcast David Lecours (from whom the title this post is taken) and Josh Miles have a great chat about the issue of ‘Client Feedback’.
It’s a brilliant 28 minute chat – with loads of insight and tips and my 5 big take-outs were (in no particular order):
  1. does your firm include client feedback interviews/sessions as part of its engagement letters? – if not, how serious is your firm about this?
  2. clients who rate you between 2 and 3 (out of 5) are the ones you need to speak to the most because they’re the ones who will give you the most honest feedback.
  3. never forget to ask the interviewee: what service do you wish we could offer you that we’re not currently offering you?’, and
  4. what didn’t I ask you today that you’ve been dying for me to ask you?
So that’s 4, where’s number 5?
This comment by Josh Miles:
“even if a client is not having the best experience, just the fact that they have been asked at this point sometimes the flattery or the thought of that makes them develop a little more affinity towards the firm just by virtue of having been identified as someone that their feedback matters.”
Go over and spend 28 minutes of your life listening to a great chat on the most important part of our business – our clients!
As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

Secondments, labour arbitrage and a new race to the bottom

Follow me:

  • In-house teams have been the biggest ‘growth’ area in legal post 2008 and some in-house teams are now bigger than the law firms they previously outsourced worked to
  • Most GCs report to the CFO
  • GCs are increasingly under pressure from the CFO to reduce their ‘cost’ (including bonuses now linked to reducing cost – note: not external legal spend)
  • GCs have effectively two cost centres: ‘labour’ or ‘ external legal spend’
  • Procurement tells GCs they can reduce both ‘labour’ and ‘spend’ at the same time – secondments (heavily discounted at daily or weekly rates in RFPs – don’t need to advise out and don’t need to hire in-house!)
  • Law firms enter the discounted labour arbitrage market

And a new race to the bottom starts*…

As always, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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*welcome to the party LoD

Is your law firm selling dirt?

Earlier today I heard a wonderful exchange between Mark Stiving and Reed Holden (of Pricing with Confidence fame) on Mark’s Impact Pricing podacst

I’ve lifted the following [short] transcript, of part of their conversation, straight from Mark’s website (with all credit to Mark)

Reed Holden: It would be fair to say that dirt is a commodity. Yeah. What David did is he went out and had a conversation with the customer. So David asked a couple of questions. He said you know, what do you really need from us? And he goes, well, Geez, you know, we spent a lot of time waiting for you guys to fill up the trucks. Well, why is that important as well? Because it’s costing me a hundred bucks an hour to get through your facility. Well, how would it be valuable? Who cut it in half? So sure it would save me 45 bucks an hour, 45 bucks an hour, a 16-ton truck works out to about 253 bucks a ton. And what they did is they implemented a, what I’ll call a flanking gate strategy and when you want it to the quarries that were two gates. At gate B, there was a line of trucks. At gate a, there was no line of trucks and there was a d five dozer sitting in there ready to load up the trucks. And so a sales guy would go in and have a conversation with, you know, a cement contractor or an asphalt contractor who were the primary customers. Think about it. Cement and asphalt contractors all have to bid in order to win the business. So it’s a very price-oriented business and the sales guy would go in. Then the contract will say how much, how much is your dirt today? And the sales guy would say it’s gonna cost you 11 bucks a ton. And the guy would come in said, well you have a competitor in here at 10 50 the sales coach, oh are we can meet 10 50 in fact we can meet 10 25 but you have to go through gate B and the quarry and the contracts, what’s gate B? It just not services fast. And the contract will quickly calculate that they would save money by paying a little bit more for the dirt. And you know it’s, we use it as, I mean we’ve extended that to professional services. In fact, we’ve done a lot of global work and extremely high-value professional services and both consulting and financial, the legal business. But you know, the commodity story tells it all because it, if it works in commodity, I guarantee you it works in the high-value stuff. But hit it with a simple conversation.

to which Mark replies:

Mark Stiving: Dirt. You’d think we’re selling dirt. But in truth, we’re not selling dirt. We’re selling a solution to a problem which includes using the truck as efficiently as possible as we’re delivering dirt to our customers.

So my question to you is this: ‘Is your law firm selling dirt, and if it is, what’s your solution that goes with it?’

As always, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback, but whatever you do listen to the whole episode here.

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What is the biggest pricing problem law firms are facing today?

This week’s episode of the Impact Pricing podcast (episode 20 – ‘Mastering SaaS Pricing: How to Price and Package Your Service’) sees host Mark Stiving talking with Kyle Poyar, Vice President for Market Strategy at OpenView. By their own admission, Mark and Kyle geek-out over SaaS pricing theory and its KPIs, so this podcast is not for everyone.

What is interesting, however, is the response Kylie gives to a question Mark asks at the 23 minute 37 second mark.

Mark’s question:

What do you see as the biggest pricing problem that subscription companies are having today?

Kylie’s response:

…structurally speaking, companies are not spending enough time on pricing, they don’t take a scientific or rigorous enough approach to optimising their pricing and testing it and collecting data on it. And we have gotten smart about just about everything in technology and if you look at the level of sophistication of the operations of a technology company it’s like just so different from where we were a few years ago. But pricing hasn’t really changed and I’ve just started to hear of companies that are trying to bring on pricing talent and make their first dedicated pricing hire and have that happen earlier in their lifecycle; but then those companies are having trouble figuring out what’s the right profile to hire for, who is going to do a good job in this role, and then finding that talent and so I think like, structurally, their biggest challenge is just lack of great pricing skills…

In my opinion, that sums up pretty well the pricing problem that we have in law firms:- we’re in such a rush to show everyone how serious we are about the pricing issue/problem facing the industry (as in, alternatives to the billable hour, project management, process improvement etc), that we have hired Heads of Pricing by the boat loads, but a niggling issue remains – industry report after industry report that has sought feedback from clients indicates (some might even say, shows) that we haven’t gotten all that much more sophisticated or even better about how we price. If that’s the case, we have to ask: is there just a lack of great pricing skills in the industry?

As always, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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NB: please ignore all comments Kylie makes about volume discounts prior to his comments above, as regular readers will know I don’t hold with those views!

The big squeeze is coming: Why it’s important to know if your practice is bespoke or precedent?

Hall Wang penned an interesting post on the Tom Spencer blog over the weekend that looked at two of the different types of consulting – Bespoke and Precedent (Bespoke and Precedent Driven – Understanding the Two Different Approaches to Consulting).

Wang explains the difference between the two as being:

Bespoke: This approach is like making a custom-tailored outfit whereby the focus is on what is unique about a client’s situation and then crafting a customized solution for the client. The mindset in this approach is to think about what might be possible to best fit the client’s needs.

Precedent driven: This approach is similar to the way you bake a cake using a cookbook; following the recipe, but making adjustments as time and available ingredients necessitate. The mindset is to find proven precedents and use them as a guide to provide reliable client recommendations.”

I like Wang’s terminology. I particularly like Wang’s use of ‘precedent driven‘ – an alternative to the stale and often misused ‘commoditised‘. It’s smart language, but I think it’s really important that lawyers and their support team understand the difference and workout which of the two their practice sits in.

So why is this even important?

Here’s the reason:- because if you operate a predominantly ‘precedent-based practice’, then you’re going to be feeling the forthcoming ‘big squeeze’ way more than is likely to be the case than if you run a bespoke practice.

What ‘big squeeze?’; my practice is already seeing an uptick in legal work you may be asking – see the latest Altman Weil ‘Law Firms in Transition 2019: Change Efforts Stalled in 2018 as Business Boomed‘ report for why this may be the case.

Well, as I recently blogged The State of Australian Corporate Law Departments Report 2019 has stated that “45% of Australian GCs are forecasting a decrease in their 2019 legal spend” – so ask yourself:- “Where is this massive savings going to come from?” Add to this the recent Thomson Reuters ‘Alternative Legal Services Provider Report‘ (February 2019) stat that

In just two years, revenues for alternative legal services providers have grown from $8.4 billion in 2015 to about $10.7 billion in 2017. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 12.9% over that period.

and it doesn’t take Einstein to tell you that a big (or bigger) squeeze is coming and that the middle – precedent-driven – market (where the majority of the market players sit) is going to be the epicentre of that big squeeze.

But knowing and understanding this is very important. It helps take you – as lawyers, business developers or leaders – a long way to understanding that in reality very few people want or need bespoke legal services; but what the really really really don’t want is a precedent legal service dressed up with a bespoke ‘full service’ price.

As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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