It seems almost like an urban myth now, but we've all heard tales of the legendary rainmakers of the past. They were the ones who brought in enough business to sustain a cadre of lawyers slaving away at desks by merely the strength of their personality and charisma. All it took was belonging to the right clubs, having a decent golf handicap and the gift of gab, and voilà … you had a client for life. Client management entailed maintaining the personal and trusted relationships you developed through an effective "schmooze."
- See You Need Relationships before Transactions for more information.
It's not quite so easy anymore. We've moved from a client-focused business model to one that is client-driven. Clients call the shots and make the rules.
Why Are Things So Different?
It's not only much more difficult to get new clients, it's also incredibly difficult to keep your existing ones – often no matter the results you obtain on their behalf. There are a number of reasons why – here are a few:
- Increased competition. Competition in the legal industry is fierce. Many large firms have robust depth and breadth as well as sophisticated marketing and client management programs. Competition comes from other places, too, besides law firms. For instance, there are consultants and advisors who offer services that were previously the purview of lawyers. Plus, the high cost of legal services causes some clients to decide not to move forward and/or to do it themselves.
- A leveled playing field. In the view of many clients, one lawyer or firm often looks similar to others in a number of dimensions that previously offered competitive advantages. Some of the dimensions in which there is greater parity include cost/price, geographic coverage, technical expertise, and services offered.
- Hiring decisions that are driven by more than results or a good relationship. The decision-making process is often more neutral than before. Factors such as cost, value-added services offered, and the ability to make an effective pitch often weigh heavily.