Two just-released surveys hint at the opportunity US law firms have to gain competitive advantage. 

The Big Squeeze – Our latest Law Department Metrics Benchmarking Survey shows that legal departments are working harder, with less, in December Corporate Counsel magazine reports that

“Cost, results, and understanding of the business were the top three criteria that legal departments used to assess outside counsel performance, but 71 percent of respondents said they had no formal review policies in place” [emphasis added]

The “5th Annual Law Department Operations Survey”, an insert to the December Inside Counsel magazine reports that 67% of firms have a “formalized metrics/reporting program” but only 61% “makes effective use of the information it provides”. So that means only about one-third effectively use metrics.

Nonetheless, US general counsels are under tremendous pressure to control cost. That they have not yet formalized management systems creates an opportunity for creative law firms. Outside counsel that can clearly differentiate their service delivery will gain share of wallet versus their competitors. Firms can stand out, for example, by demonstrating a deep knowledge of the client’s company or industry, providing and sticking to budgets, deploying client-facing technology that really helps inside counsel, or offering more value through creative and lower cost matter staffing.

Clients notice and appreciate service delivery whether or not they formally evaluate firms or institute rigorous metrics. And once they do, then firms will have to take these steps anyway or risk losing the business. Now is the time to start.