Increased Emphasis on Legal Operations? That’s a Communications Opportunity.

July 29, 2019

Two promotions at global law firms recently caught our eye—specifically because the professionals involved are not practicing attorneys, and they have been elevated to newly created positions. Baker McKenzie has promoted David Cambria to its first chief services officer, and Hogan Lovells has named Terry Williams its first head of client finance operations. These legal operations promotions signal that firms are dedicating more resources than ever to offering the innovative pricing models and alternative legal services clients are asking for, and are prioritizing the client experience in new ways.

While this trend will play out on a smaller scale in mid-sized firms, they face the same challenges when it comes to thinking more broadly about the services and pricing structures they should be offering their clients.

On the client-facing side, this means knowing that clients now have a more sophisticated understanding of the kinds of legal services they need—and are demanding more efficiency, transparency and customized solutions to feel assured they are getting the best value. On the in-house side, services and operations-inclined leaders must, as industry analyst Professor William Henderson put it in last week’s Bloomberg Big Law Business piece, “convince partners that there are more ways to make money than…billing by the hour under the traditional law firm pyramid structure.”

It will not be easy to get the stakeholders—the providers and the consumers of legal services—on the same page about what now appears to be an essential adaptation in a very tough market. But firms know they must find a way.

It will take a strategic effort across all departments of the firm to meet these challenges, but leaders should not overlook the role of communications in moving closer to their goals. As you make major (and minor) changes to your service offerings and pricing models, how do you communicate with clients and prospects about them? Are your efforts merely a scramble to keep up with a market trend, or do these changes present an opportunity to affirm your brand identity, integrating your commitment to innovation into how you talk about who you are? How do you want to talk to recruits about your vision for client relationships and how they could be a part of it?

These are the questions communications and marketing professionals can help you answer—and the sooner the better as the pressure to evolve to meet client demand on these issues seems to grow by the day.