As law firm competition heats up, legal experts are noticing a pronounced trend toward businesses developing in-house legal departments. Firms are looking to hire and develop lawyers with specialized knowledge of their business practices to avoid having to outsource such services. As more firms are bringing their legal work in-house, here's what law firms need to know — and some tips on how to compete.
Why Bring Legal Services In-House?
Corporations are creating in-house legal departments for several reasons. Some prefer to cultivate lawyers with the specific expertise they need rather than work with outsourced attorneys who may be new to their industry. The inside counsel may prefer lawyers that have a precise understanding of both their company's product and business model, transcending the transactional and limited role of consultant to become a trusted business partner and deeply knowledgeable legal advisor.
Many of these companies want their legal function to act as a natural extension of the business team that they can turn to for dynamic, expert, and frank advice. By inhabiting a position within the company, they believe in-house legal services will be able to act with greater speed, nimbleness, and accuracy relative to the competition.
In addition, in-house legal teams may be better able to manage risk within the business before it escalates to a level requiring full-fledged external resources. Add to the fact that some corporations believe they may be able to cut down on legal expenditures, and it's easy to see how they've built a case toward going in-house.
This means that in an environment of increased law firm competition, law firms now have to differentiate themselves from both in-house counsels and competing law firms. To stand out from the pack, law firms must show their prospective clients clear business advantages and selling points that they will find compelling and convincing enough to sign on the dotted line.
Effective Communication Boosts Law Firm Competition
Fortunately, there are several ways that law firms can raise the bar on their operations and services in order to appeal to corporations seeking high-quality legal services. By taking advantage of sophisticated, law firm-focused technologies and adopting a strategic approach to service, firms can underscore their value and make a compelling argument for their services.
Law firms can begin by providing their clients with consistently effective communication. Corporations value legal talent that understands their business needs and objectives, and law firms need to demonstrate that this level of understanding can be found among outside partners. Effective communication lies at the center of demonstrating this.
For example, with the benefit of a convenient mobile communication solution that allows lawyers to consistently place and receive calls via their office extension — regardless of whether at their desk, on a laptop, or on the go with only their smartphone — law firms can ensure that their teams remain in touch and accessible as a case takes shape and evolves.
Law firms can add to this level of convenience by offering video conferencing, which can come in especially handy during a complex or sensitive case or project. Lawyers can communicate confidence and care with far greater nuance during a video conference than over a phone call or email message, in the process developing and cultivating the personal trust that is so essential to enduring client relationships. Video conferencing also makes life easier for the client by keeping them from having to make in-person trips to the office.
When the client feels that they are with a law firm that cares about their needs and that goes the extra mile to meet them where they're at, they're more likely to select that firm over the competition and less likely to consider expanding their in-house legal department.
Deploying sophisticated technology to achieve results sends the message to prospective clients that they're not just client-centered in their approach, but innovative and forward-thinking in their use of technology, too.
Maximize Efficiencies for Better Client Care
Working as efficiently as possible is key to delivering the high standard of service that today's clients expect, and one way to accomplish this is by proactively managing availability. Lawyers can easily set hours when they are available to take calls or block off time when they need to dedicate their focus and expertise to finalizing a contract or determining the most effective strategy for a complicated negotiation. The firm can keep communications moving while managing expectations for availability by setting up a virtual receptionist to route calls to the right destination, adding specialized rules for court days, weekends, and holidays if needed.
Law firms can also provide a smoother experience to their clients with advanced billing solutions that give them more time to deliver high-quality client care. These solutions help firms automatically track the time billed to each case, generating timely and accurate invoices and seamlessly keeping client records up to date.
Finally, firms can keep clients apprised of a case's progress with automatic SMS reminders, which also let them nimbly follow up with clients if they need more information for a case. With these notifications, clients can rest assured that their firm is on top of the case while the lawyers can spend more time on what matters most — tending to clients' needs.
Law firm competition is heating up as firms increasingly need to differentiate themselves not just from their traditional competitors, but from in-house legal departments, too. By raising the bar on the communication and quality of care they deliver to clients, law firms will better be able to ensure their competitiveness in a complex and dynamic marketplace. Deploying sophisticated technology to achieve these results sends the message to prospective clients that they're not just client-centered in their approach, but innovative and forward-thinking in their use of technology, too.