There is little doubt that the world is in crisis mode now, and it’s often difficult to know what to be doing with clients to help them through this — while still trying to maintain your own business operations. Below is a quick overview of six actions that law firms can take now to help them service their clients, manage their operations, and basically get through the next six months:
1. Pick up the phone and call your clients
I don’t know about your inbox, but mine gets hit with about 200 email bulletins each day, many containing an update on how companies are responding to COVID-19 and their plans to “continue to serve me in the best — and safest — way possible.” If the email isn’t from a personal contact, it gets trashed immediately — so put your efforts elsewhere. Remember, staying close to clients, albeit virtually, is more important than ever.
2. Schedule a (virtual) client meeting
Today looks nothing like yesterday to your clients. Every matter, every project, every initiative, or whatever your client was planning on tackling this year just got side-lined. Get a meeting on the books to talk through the new priorities, such as determining the most pressing issues and risks you see on the horizon for your client and be prepared to have contingency plans in place for whatever might arise. Remember, it’s crucial to offer clear recommendations when meeting with clients during this critical stage.
3. Matter prioritization and triage is mission critical
Expect budget cuts to come hard and fast. During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, legal departments were faced with reducing costs by 20% — it will likely be no different this time through and will happen a lot faster. Being the law firm that’s helping clients prioritize their resources most effectively and efficiently puts you at the top of consideration lists for the work that is going to proceed. Matters can be quickly prioritized from highest risk to lowest by looking at i) continuity of business operations; ii) monetary risk; and iii) reputational impact.
4. Get really comfortable with budgeting
Budgets are about to become mandatory conversation starters for all new work. The new financial crisis is starting now — not a year from now. Which means clients are cutting back on their spend and need to be accountable to new, tighter budgets. Be prepared to address these conversations head on, and be aware of such factors as the cost of the work and what factors could upend the budget. Also, keep the conversation focused on the value of work being done for the price you’re charging. Be sure to talk about i) how the work will ensure continuity of operations; ii) what potential costs you are helping the client avoid; and iii) what ways can you help control the costs for the client.
5. Efficiency is going to be a core differentiator
The ability to demonstrate efficiency has been a strong differentiator for law firms. This is going to be even more so now, especially for those firms willing to be proactive and offer options to clients rather than waiting for clients to ask. Start talking now to clients about i) flexible talent options to help clients get through a skyrocketing workload with limited resources; ii) hosting process improvement courses for client legal departments to help them streamline and find efficiencies; and iii) online risk assessments to help clients quickly diagnose issues and identify their contact at the firm for specific questions.
6. Avoid business as usual
The next six months are going to be a proving ground for law firms. Thinking quickly, creatively, and differently is going to separate those firms that are going to grow from those that are going to struggle. Law firms that are staying in close contact with their clients and talking about evolving and unexpected business challenges are going to figure out new and innovative ways to serve those clients through this crisis. This will likely set a new set of expectations in motion long after the crisis is contained.
As always — and perhaps more importantly today — firms always should be asking themselves, “What can we do differently to help clients?”
You can access the full version of this article that appeared on the Thomson Reuters Acritas‘ site.