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Bruno Mascello, Vice Director at the Executive School of the University of St.Gallen, talks about the challenges when buying legal services in the future.
Bruno, you just returned from a conference in New York where the focus was on legal market intelligence when procuring legal services. What are your learnings?
The majority of participants were experts from procurement departments purchasing legal services from law firms on a daily basis. The topic of the conference was legal market intelligence. Hence, it did not really come as a surprise that the speakers presented all sorts of numbers. It became obvious that they are experts when it comes to dealing with numbers, in particular in assessing lawyers’ rates and mastering an RFP and panel process. However, I have to admit that this reminded me of the stereotype of procurement being interested in savings only and forgetting about the core of the legal service.
What is this ‘core’ about? Isn’t providing legal services about delivering correct legal advice only?
Legal expertise is of course core to providing accurate legal advice and to represent customers in the best possible way. But two things need to be kept in mind: a customer – often a non-lawyer – takes legal expertise as a given, and it is anyhow very difficult for her to make a fair assessment of a lawyer’s subject-matter expertise and technical quality. Therefore, a customer reverts to the other side of the coin, which is much more familiar to her: the service and relationship elements. And on top, with this a customer does not assess the service quality only, but also applies and transfers this judgement – be it fair or not – to the assessment of the lawyer’s subject-matter expertise. Consequently, the service elements become key to meeting customer’s expectations.
Can you give an example of an important non-legal related performance criteria?
There are many of them. For example, customer satisfaction depends fundamentally on qualitative elements such as accessibility, reaction and resolution time, timely delivery and flexibility. Further, communication and an overall empathic advisory quality are key. Also etiquette and manners such as friendliness and politeness are important, as well as the reputation and brand of the lawyer and her law firm. Finally, a lawyer needs to show industry knowledge and understand the customer’s needs, business, corporate strategy and business model. This intimate knowledge should then lead to a short familiarization time, a much more useful and pragmatic legal advice, and hopefully lower fees.