Fact. Not all law firms are the same.
However, by the way that most shy away from the media except to discuss the occasional legal issue and rely on glossy brochures to tell you about their services but not their performance or plans, you might well think this was so.
Why does this matter?
Well, for a business or individual buying legal services it means that comparing law firms in any meaningful way is made more difficult and often becomes an overly complex process. It certainly requires a considerable amount of time, effort and specialist knowledge.
The result is that even though you may be less than happy with the service or advice you receive, changing to another law firm and ensuring that you pick the right one requires a greater investment than most are prepared to make.
In many cases the lack of transparency makes any sort of performance or financial analysis impossible. What clients frequently end up doing is using the lawyers that they always have just because it is an easier option – very much the case of better the devil you know.
The more the better, at least as far as information is concerned when choosing lawyers. Think about exactly what and how much you know about the law firm(s) that you use? It probably isn't enough!
So, how do you tell law firms apart and indeed whether one is better or more suitable for your needs than another?
The first stop is usually the legal directories. These are not a bad first port of call particularly for impartial reviews of individual services and lawyers. However, they are not comprehensive and provide little help if you are looking for a full service firm to take care of all of your legal needs. The legal press also provides some useful background. This though is written with lawyers in mind and aimed firmly at the legal community and not businesses or individuals. After these avenues it quickly comes down to personal recommendation. Given that most businesses and individuals use lawyers sparingly it is unlikely that this will help significantly when trying to compare a number of law firms objectively.
To help you, we have learnt from the mainstream commercial world. Our solution is to openly discuss our firm's performance and strategy as frequently as possible. We also publish an annual report which has both financial and general information. This includes updates on the services that we have marked out for investment as well as those we are looking to provide in the future. There are also innovative benchmarks including statistics on building strong and effective working relationships with our clients.
Few law firms do this, but we believe that it is an essential part of helping our clients to build an accurate understanding of who we are, what we do and how we can add value to their business.
Underpinning our approach is a belief that clients have vested interests in our ongoing success. After all, this is why they use us and are therefore valued stakeholders in our business. Without them we would not exist. Therefore letting them know how we are doing as well as our future plans is a key part of building the trust required for them to want to work with us.
The legal world very much thinks of itself as a relationship based industry. Indeed, many law firms say that one of their key service objectives is to build a solid working relationship with their clients. Many also speak about "relationship lawyering" and openly talk of their aim to become a "trusted adviser" or "lawyer (or law firm) of choice".
However, if they are not prepared to discuss key issues with those that play an important part in their future, namely their clients, the amount of value they place in these relationships should be viewed accordingly.