A prior blog entry discussed imperfections in the market for legal services. An editorial in Corporate Legal Times, Law Firms are Often Blind to Clients’ Needs adds fuel to this fire. 

In essence, my prior posting suggested that the customer, that is, general counsel, is not demanding enough (though there are some good reasons for this). It is thus with interest that I read publisher Nat Slavin’s piece in the January issue. He explains that he regularly meets with law firm leaders. One question he asks is “what they think is on their clients’ minds.” Law firm leaders think that clients
– View law firms as “irreplaceable.”
– Cannot solve legal problems on their own
– Think their firm is only one who can handle a particular matter.

His analysis of this situation is insightful. Both sides contribute to “perpetuating these myths.” One problem is that the firm lawyers who do client work are often not the ones managing expectations. Another is that “there are too few lawyers in legal departments willing to develop an environment that addresses or challenges these beliefs.” Inhouse counsel are too busy to do so; moreover, they are cut of the same cloth as their outside counsel and also believe the myths.

Salvation is in sight though. Mr. Slavin suggests that an increasing number of GCs are ready to change how they deal with outside counsel, in part by exercising their market power. Ultimately, he suggests that if law firm cannot adapt to changing requirements, the GC must change firms.

If, as this editorial suggests, the market is becoming more demanding, law firms will have to adapt, including considering a range of technologies that can allow them to deliver more cost effective service and to communicate more clearly with their clients.