Do large law firms provide quality service? 

The answer depends on what we mean by quality and the metrics we choose. A threshold question is whether to consider the quality of substantive legal advice. Even if that were the only metric, the question remains difficult: outcome relative to what? Clients may have a strong or a weak position, so outcomes have to be measured relative to some reasonable prospective standard.

Of course, service is more than just about outcomes. Some clients might even take outcome off the table, viewing legal advice quality as a given. Instead, they might focus on all other elements of their interaction with BigLaw. But which ones? And what metrics?

Two recent items got me thinking about this. Martin Collins, legal head of Bloom Energy, writes in Helping in-house and outside counsel work better together (“Avoiding Mistakes” in print edition) in Inside Counsel (July 2011), of his frustration asking outside counsel to answer five enumerated questions and not receiving five distinct answers or answer yes-no questions and not getting back a yes or no.

Separately, an AmLaw Daily blog post, Survey: Half of Law Firms Don’t Seek Client Feedback (28 June 2011) reports only 48% of firms “formally solicit client critiques and just one-third communicate the feedback to lawyers”. In most markets, customer opinion counts a lot in evaluating service quality. The fact that not even half of firms surveyed ask clients their opinion speaks volumes.

So how do we answer whether BigLaw provides quality service? My view is that we need an open source, group effort to answer it. To start the process, I have created a Google document with a short outline and a few instructions. Click here to access it. Anyone can edit it. With sufficient participation, this could become a wiki but I want to start with minimal overhead and see how many participate.