In-house counsel choosing law firms say responsiveness the most important factor

Client demands to keep servicing level agreements and having expert commercial knowledge put firms under pressure

LONDON – In-house counsel choosing external law firms say that responsiveness is the most important factor in their decision, shows a new survey by Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

The survey of more than 200 in-house lawyers, conducted by Thomson Reuters, found that when deciding whether to instruct a law firm, they valued responsiveness (rated 8.8 out of 10 in terms of importance), understanding of the business and its industry (8.6) and deep specialist expertise (7.6) as the most important factors.

Thomson Reuters says that the results demonstrate the growing pressure on law firms from clients to be responsive to the client’s agreed needs in relation to a specific matter, to have deep knowledge of the law and, more commercial awareness.

These factors all rank higher than price (7.5), and highlight where law firms may choose to focus their investment in order to have the biggest impact on client experience.

“There is now tremendous pressure on law firms to understand, agree and keep to, service level agreements with  their clients, and to ensure their responses reflect the commercial and wider-industry in which the client operates,” said Samantha Steer, Director, Large and Medium Law Firms,  at the Legal UK & Ireland business for Thomson Reuters. “For in-house counsel, these are often the factors that really justify the fees.”

The survey results are released ahead of the ‘Entrepreneurial Law Firm Conference’ to be held on May 16th in London. The event will discuss the factors that are impacting the legal market and the effect they will have on the traditional business model.

“The insights gained from this survey will be of interest to any forward-looking law firm keen to understand how best to serve their clients’ changing needs,” said Samantha Steer. “What clients really want is an age-old question, and an understanding of the buying decisions and behaviours can help law firms to stay ahead of these trends.”

Technology moves up the agenda for law firms and in-house counsel

Thomson Reuters adds that its survey results show legal technology is now moving up the agenda for in-house counsel. Innovative service delivery through technology (rated 5.9 out of 10 in terms of importance) was ranked as a more important factor in choosing a law firm supplier than personal relationships between the firm and senior decision-makers (4.8), corporate social responsibility (5) and size and reach of international network (5.6).

Document automation was highlighted by a number of respondents as being a key area where law firms can add value for their clients. For clients that produce a large number of documents with only small variations – such as employment contracts or non-disclosure agreements – providing technology to automate their production can save in-house lawyers a significant amount of time.

Other legal technology innovations in-house counsel identified as adding value included:

  • Technology that bolsters cyber security and data protection
  • Technology that enables remote working
  • client collaboration portals
  • e-billing systems
  • project/case management systems
  • AI-based document review systems
  • Automated triage systems
  • e-discovery systems

The Lawyer’s UK 200 Business Services 2016 report found that 84% of law firms placed investment in IT higher up the strategic agenda last year than in the previous year, while 66% specifically set aside an increased budget for IT investment in 2016.

 “The ability to show innovation when it comes to delivering legal services is something that is becoming a more important part of a comprehensive commercial law offering,” said Samantha Steer.

The survey, entitled: ‘Standing out from the crowd: What do businesses value most from their law firms?is based on the responses of more than 200 in-house lawyers, the majority of which are General Counsel or Heads of Legal. The research focuses on clients that instruct those UK firms ranked 50-200 in The Lawyer Top 200).

Thomson Reuters
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