Advancing law firm innovation and the legal sales process

A woman and her coworkers look at a large monitor that shows bar graphs

At the ILTACON 2022 session “Becoming a Sophisticated Seller of Legal Services: Normalizing Alternative Pricing Models,” panelists discussed how law firms can best deliver against client expectations and become sophisticated sellers and providers of legal services.

“Understanding the market is the first step [toward] becoming a sophisticated seller because you realize the type of competition that you’re in,” explained William Josten, Strategic Content Manager of Strategy and Performance at Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute. He urged firm leaders and sales teams to examine what makes their organizations and clients unique, and advised them to tailor services proposals depending on their clients’ sophistication and services complexity.

Firms have become more sophisticated in their sales process and delivery of services, which have been driven by client demands and the competitive environment. Clients are looking for more cost-effective staffing models and flexible pricing structures which are being provided by progressive firms that invest in pricing and legal project management functions.

Sharon Scenna, Senior Solutions Management Director at Intapp, explored the idea of client value and how to approach it. “You really need to understand your client’s perspective of value,” she explained. “A large international company may be focused on minimizing outside counsel spend, … [or] setting a case  for precedence and therefore looking for the best talent. A client’s definition of value can vary based on the respective matter or can be defined by their annual fiscal year goals.”

To determine client value, Scenna recommends that your business team meet with inhouse counsel or the key stakeholders to establish an ongoing relationship that extends beyond the legal service team. Many firms have their pricing or LPM professionals discuss their observations with the internal service team and influence initiatives to meet the client’s need. “Simply having conversations on client value is one way for firms to start to be sophisticated in their sales process,” she said.

One key value clients increasingly seek from their firms: transparency. Scenna explained that many clients expect firms to provide budget-to-actual reports so they can determine exactly where their money is going. They also want firms to offer alternative fee arrangements that reflect the actual work being done. To provide clients with the most recent and accurate information possible, and to ensure matters are priced accurately and profitably, firms will need to invest in advanced, innovative solutions.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to persuade your teams to embrace innovation and develop new  processes. Moderator Kofi Mundi-Castle asked session attendees to share their greatest likely obstacle to improving the sales process for legal services, and the majority answered, “Compensation that rewards individuals rather than teams.” High-performing professionals are unlikely to deviate from a process that is working well for them, even if it isn’t working for the team as a whole.

Other professionals may likewise oppose adopting new processes and technology because their current system — as problematic as it may be — is at least familiar to them. A 2022 Thomson Reuters study showed that the top priority for most law departments for the next 12 months was to conduct operations in the most efficient way possible. Implementing and learning a new system can temporarily disrupt workflows, potentially introducing new risks.

“We [lawyers] are wired to avoid risk,” said Josten. That’s why technology providers need to prove that the time, effort, and money a legal firm puts into these tools will pay off. Reveal past success stories, identify average fees, or present data analytics such as the exact amount of time a team saved per week using your technology.

“Lawyers are creatures of precisely two things: evidence and precedence,” Josten pointed out. “What is data? It’s evidence. And if we can show these things that we’ve done in the past work, that’s precedence.” Metrics and results can help convince lawyers that your technology will help improve performance — on both an individual and firmwide level.

In addition to internal investments, law firms can partner with their clients to help them become sophisticated buyers of legal services. Scenna discussed items clients should consider when comparing law firm proposals such as the level of involvement of senior attorneys and the substantive assumptions that derive the budget. A firm’s unique approach to service delivery may result in efficiency and long-term process improvements. Firms need to help educate their clients on how they are providing value in ways that extend well beyond simply providing a discounted rate.

Learn how OnePlace Operations & Finance — Intapp’s end-to-end cloud solution — is helping firms transform engagement financial management to meet client expectations.