The Future of Buying Legal Services

Introduction

I’m not going to try here* to cover the waterfront, but rather offer a few observations and reflections on the turn of events that prompts us to be considering so seriously the process that leads to the delivery of legal advice and representation to clients.

Part of the challenge here, it seems to me, lies in the nature of the four principal factors or ‘moving parts’ that form the backdrop to procurement. These are: cost; price; value; and relationship. There are different types of legal services – ranging from highly bespoke and ‘bet-the-company’ issues to routine, standardised and commoditised offerings. And there are different types of procurement – ranging from personal engagement, through professional procurement and tender processes, to buying online with no human interaction at all.

What is clear is that not all types of procurement are appropriate to all types of services. The real issue, as I see it, lies in the potential disconnects among cost, price, value and relationship. There is an inevitable tension between short-term procurement wins and longer-term legal or relationship consequences. There are times or circumstances when cost-cutting just isn’t worth it. Continue reading

‘Client’ or ‘customer’: does the label matter?

Earlier this month, I was invited by the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland to deliver a keynote presentation on the topic of whether ‘client’ or ‘customer’ is a distinction with or without meaning.  Although I had mulled this over many times before, this was the first time that I had really given it any sustained thought.  I was slightly surprised by my conclusion!  I had previously been of the view that it was largely a matter of personal preference (or prejudice), but in the end lawyers sold and – whatever they were called – others bought, and the label didn’t really matter.  I’ve now come to the view that it really does matter. Continue reading

The future for legal services regulation

Introduction

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I hold a number of non-executive and advisory appointments with various organisations. What I say here represents my own thoughts and should not be attributed in any way to any of them.

In addressing the fascinating issue of the future for legal services regulation, I confess that I am starting from a possibly contentious proposition: that the current framework is still essentially founded on a Victorian guild and apprenticeship model.

Despite Sir David Clementi’s recommendations ten years ago for a new regulatory approach, unfortunately – though our structure has certainly been reconditioned – it is not as good as new. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that his proposals were not as radical as the provisions of the Legal Services Act 2007 itself (in that his views in relation to external ownership and multidisciplinary practice were more conservative than the Act). And so, in a strange twist, the changes in the legal services market heralded by Sir David’s report and enabled by the Act have resulted in a regulatory framework that is not truly fit for the purpose of regulating the liberated market that they have created.

Continue reading