With winter weather finally making an appearance over a large portion of the U.S., I’m almost reluctant to talk about spending a couple pleasant January days in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Sometimes you get the good assignments; sometimes not.
Of course, the climate wasn’t the reason for the visit. The location was the site of this year’s annual Marketing Partner Forum. That means good company and content also were offered as attractive complements to the weather and venue.
With two days of workshops, breakouts and general sessions – covering pricing, business development, metrics, lateral integration and similar suitable topics – there was enough worthwhile information to keep attendees occupied and satisfied. One presentation stood out and caught my attention; it was the keynote talk from Trevor Faure, Global Leader and Partner, Legal Services with Ernst & Young Global.
The title was a mouthful – The Smarter Legal Model: Replacing the Traditional Zero-Sum Game Client Relationship with a Profitable Partnership – but I have to give Faure credit for offering up a new way of looking at the dynamics between clients and firms. He did a masterful job interweaving globalization influences, Six Sigma methodologies, the commoditization of legal services and a host of other issues that impact the practice and business of law. Since he’s also written a book on the topic (The Smarter Legal Model: more from less), I won’t make a futile attempt to distill his presentation and insights into a 30-second sound bite. But I do have a perspective to share.
In part, events like the Forum seem worthwhile to me because they allow people to deviate from daily routines and devote quality thought-processing time to serious topics. In all honesty, most of the talks don’t explore uncharted territory; they address familiar subjects – sometimes in unique ways – and add to the industry’s collective body of knowledge. As such, the sessions serve as a catalyst to remind you of important things that, oftentimes, you already know.
Trevor Faure’s presentation gave me one of those “light bulb” moments … reaffirming a memory I knew to be true and convincing me to pay attention to the important point with renewed vigor. It came as he talked about law firms finding the right balance point that allows them to cover client issues, maintain headcounts with the bench strength to do good work, and control the net cost of practice operations. If that juggling act isn’t handled properly, you’re in trouble.
There was the key takeaway that made the presentation memorable. Allow me to paraphrase: “If you don’t balance your firm’s resources to deliver high value solutions to clients, you can bet clients will do their own balancing act … and you might not like or benefit from the way they choose to do it.” Put another way: if you’re not focusing on the client, chances are you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
That reminder of what I already knew to be true is the “souvenir” I brought back from the Marketing Partner Forum. It’s worth repeating whenever you develop a strategic plan, allocate resources, get ready for a client meeting, pursue new prospects, or start each working day. Chances are, you already know it too.