in-house counsel

Is an iTunes store for professional services the next big thing?

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Today the Australian Financial Review has published a very interesting article (‘iTunes store for professional services‘) that states:

“Global professional services giants will invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 18 months to build iTunes-style repositories of software-supported services that can be distributed to clients through a digital shopfront anywhere in the world.”

going on to state that: “[KPMG] is throwing $US200 million to $US300 million ($425 million) at populating this repository with “disruptive technology assets”“.

All sounds a bit far fetched doesn’t it?

Or does it?

We already know that a number of leading law firms in Australia have developed client facing apps since Gilbert + Tobin’s Telco Navigator app was awarded ‘Services to the industry’ in the professional services category at the 2014 Communications Alliance and CommsDay (ACOMMS) Awards.

Most recently this has included the very informative K&L Gates Hub platform, which is described as being:

“a digital destination for timely insight on critical issues at the intersection of business and law.”

So while law firms may not be throwing $US200 million to $US300 million at this development, there’s little doubt that iTunes (as well as Google Chrome App) may well play a significant role in the way law firms distribute their thought leadership in the future.

And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it made me recall another quote I read this morning to the effect that in the future it may well be the case that your firm’s differentiating factor could be as simple as having the human touch.

Which would you prefer: to be well known, or well paid?

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This week saw the publication of Acritas’ report of the ‘Best Known Firms the World Over, 2015‘.

For regular readers of this blog, my views of reports of this kind should be pretty well known by now (hint: I don’t hold them in much stock).

However, this year’s Acritas report goes a step further:- not for who is in the report, but for who isn’t.

And who might they be?

Well, in Slaughter & May and Quinn Emmanuel, only two of the most profitable law firms in the world.

Which rather goes to show that either:

  • (a) “detailed telephone interviews of 1,059 heads of legal departments, their deputies or chief operating officers at 1,048 companies at randomly selected companies with gross revenues of at least $1 billion” means that neither of these firms is that well known, and/or
  • (b) there’s very little correlation between being well known and being well paid.

Given the choice though of coming top of a league of well known law firms or top of a table of most profitable law firms (profits per equity partner), I know which I’d choose.

3 ways you can grow your book of business today

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It’s very much been a story of doom and gloom in the Australian legal marketplace of late. Demand is down. The Aussie Dollar has fallen through the floor and seems to keep going. It’s nightmare and has been for some time.

As someone who advises law firms on business growth strategies, all this doom and gloom can be down right depressing. If, that is, you let it.

As for me, I prefer to talk things up and I enjoy looking around for the opportunities rather than dwelling too long on the negative. With that in mind, here are three ways and places you could be growing your book of business today:

  1.  Thailand

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Rohini Kappasath (handle @TalkingAsia on twitter) recently tweeted that there are 180 Australian companies – large and small SMEs – operating in Thailand who are looking for growth and guidance.

When I questioned Rohini where these numbers came from, he told me (vid DM) they were provided by DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

Think about that for a second: 180 Australian companies operating in Thailand who are looking for growth and guidance. I wonder how many of these companies are currently represented by Australian law firms? Having lived in Thailand for 12 years myself, I’d hazard a guess not too many.

Massive opportunity going begging here.

  2.  Malaysia

Headline in yesterday’s The Star Online:

“Domestic F&B players strive to expand into Australia”

with a lead paragraph that reads:

“The domestic food  and  beverage (F&B) sector is striving to expand into the high-value Australian market as reflected from the participation of 18 Malaysian exhibitors at the Fine Food Australia 2015.”

18 Malaysian exhibitors at the Fine Food Australia 2015 with,

“Ninety-five business meetings with over 80 potential business partners were arranged by Matrade for the Malaysian companies during the event”

and not a single law firm in sight (from what I can see).

Massive opportunity going begging here.

3. Inbound M&A

Headline from yesterday’s Australian:

“Foreign takeovers tipped to surge”

with the following graph:

inbound M&A

Other than, “massive opportunity going begging here”, not really sure I need to add anything to that!

So if you practice law in Australia and you are wondering what you can do about your ever dwindling revenue stream, all I can say is the work is out there: you just need to go looking for it.

* did you notice how I didn’t need to mention China once in this post… …quite clever that really.

#BizDevTip: Always be thinking of ways you can improve how you communicate with your client

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Research shows us that (aside from technical expertise) timely, responsive communications are high up on the list of things clients are looking for from their lawyers. This begs the question: how well do you communicate  with your clients, and what could you be doing to improve the experience?

For example:

  • when a client calls do you answer straight away? If not, do you call them as soon as you can after you are free?
  • when you get an email from your client, how long does it take you to respond? Do you ever respond to tell them you have received the email and are looking into the issue?
  • do you send tip-bits of information you read to clients if you think it might interest them (Saw This And Thought Of You)?
  • do you call your clients on a Friday afternoon to ask them how their week was and what they’ll be doing for the weekend?
  • do you ever tell your clients how they can contact you during holiday season?
  • does your client know your mobile phone number?
  • do you schedule regular meetings with your clients to talk through their work-flow issues and how you might be able to improve your timely and responsive communications with them?

Always remember, you have two ears and one mouth: by listening to your clients you are far more likely to hear their needs and concerns than if you do all the talking.

#BizDevTip: Segment your contacts list to gain greater business development traction

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Two things are pretty certain when dealing with Australian lawyers: First, they only have a ‘master’ CV (rarely tailored for the occasion); and second, they usually only have one contact database.

If this sounds familiar don’t fret, the answer is as simple as undertaking a health check of your current contact database and classifying each of your contacts according to their:

  • industry sector
  • geographic location
  • seniority
  • the strength of the relationship they have with you
  • any known specific and niche area needs they may have, and
  • their preferred method of communication.

You should start this process off by asking yourself:

“What does my contact need to know and how would they prefer I tell them?”

Get an honest answer to that question and you will find that you are much more likely to get engagement and a dialogue going with your contact(s) that should develop into better business leads.

On the other hand, you can keep your contacts bundled up in one database and see how many of them unsubscribe to updates in the near future.

To succeed in the future, law firms need to specialise

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Over the course of the past week I have seen two news items that include comments by prominent industry experts advocating that for law firms to success in the future they will need to specialize.

The first item was a short [1 minute 40] video interview of David Lat (editor of Above the Law) titled More ‘Shakeout’ Coming for Big Law, Says Above the Law Editor in which (the recently married – congratulations David) Lat touches on the issue that for firms to survive going forward, they will need to get much better at the specialization game.

The second item, from the same day (11 September), was an article (‘How future-ready is your law firm?‘) on the Australasian Lawyer website that included comments by Keynote speech presenter Jordan Furlong of Edge International and Tim Williams of Ignition Consulting Group at last week’s ALPMA (Australasian Legal Practice Management Association) Annual Conference on the Gold Coast (at which I was not a participant).

In essence the article promulgates the experts opinion that the “future of law firms will be specialisation, rather than expansion” and that “In reality, clients have changed from wanting to be loyal to a full service firm to shopping around for the best firm suited to a particular project.

Both the article and Lat’s interview video raise an interesting issue and I have to say that while I largely agree with William’s view that:

“Buyers [today] are seeking best in class solutions to their problems. They no longer need to fall back on a generalist firm that they can count on for everything in their hometown.”

it has yet to be fully explained to me why some, but certainly not all, full service firms cannot also claim that they provide “best in class solutions to their clients’ problems”.

The 4 Cs you need to attain “trusted advisor” status

4 Cs of Trust

Following the breakthrough work of David Maister in 2000, gaining The Trusted Advisor status has become the Holy Grail of all private practising lawyers. Not many, however, fully understand what this entails. While many may be able to name one or two elements what follows constitutes the 4 Cs you will need to demonstrate in order to attain “trusted advisor” status with clients and your work colleagues:

 C1 = Credibility: delivering what you promised, when you promised it
 C2 = Competence: having the right expertise and the right track record for the job – and being able to evidence this (as well as being able to say you DON’T have the right expertise to do the job!).
 C1 = Compatibility: being able to work collegiately (as part of a team)
 C2 = Consistency: delivering over a period of time

NB: this post was inspired by a recent post by Rachael Wheatley on PM Forum South West: “The Trusted Advisor is Dead. Long Live The Trusted Advisor