• Client Talk

transformation not innovation

Client Talk was created to change the conversations that professional services companies are having with, and about, their clients. We do this in three ways: removing echo chambers, promoting active listening and leveraging empathy. As such, we couldn’t think of a better way to launch our event programme than to bring together a range of different voices into one room: client, marketing and partner.


This article contains some of the key takeaways from our Driving Growth event on 24th June. Our founder, Claire Rason, was joined by Sadie Baron, CMO of Reed Smith; Jeff Langlands, GC of BT Global; Steve Couch, former partner at PwC and team coach; and finally, Nir Golan, until recently GC of Attenti. The views in this article provide a summary of the conversation and our take on it. In order to let our guests speak freely, we have not attributed any comments specifically. You had to be in the room for that!


The focus of the conversation was the Growth Equation set out in our report: Are We Listening?


Clients

The first part of our growth equation is that firms need to partner with clients. This goes beyond saying that you are client centric. It requires a more in-depth understanding of not just your clients but also their stakeholders and the pressures they face.


The panel discussed the validity of this, and the key takeaways were:


  • Agreement of a need to co-create with clients and to create a partnership with them;

  • Firms add value when they understand their client’s business, the pressures the client is facing both internally and externally, and they leverage their networks and relationships they have for the benefit of their client; and

  • Technical expertise is a given – clients want more from their firms – they want a firm that can support them on their journey. The way to achieve this is to be empathetic and to listen to clients. It is also for clients to be brave and ask. A partnership works in both directions and clients need to say what they need and what is lacking.


There was a discussion around the fact that, as an industry, there are challenges and pressures that are shared between clients and firms. Understanding what these are and working together to solve them was seen as critical in transforming the industry going forward.


The mindset of lawyers wanting to copy others or going into a conversation with a desire to fix something or have the solution readily at hand is a risk or barrier to change. This mindset gets in the way of active listening and prevents empathy and understanding. Curiosity and a willingness to experience were presented as necessary to come up with new solutions.


Client Talk promotes diverse thinking because we believe it is the only way you can remove echo chambers. Having teams with the same background and same approach will only produce one solution. This goes for external and internal discussions. There was agreement that clients are facing challenges that aren’t just traditional legal challenges, so to solve those there is a need for diversity in teams. Clients want firms to bring people into the room beyond the senior partner on the transaction. This might be a junior working on the deal, but it should also include non-lawyers. A much more refreshing and energising approach.

It is by having people think differently that change will happen.


Conclusion: Stop – listen – empathise – collaborate


Strategy

The second part of the growth equation is strategy. Firms need to have a forward-looking strategy that is adaptable to change.


In our report, we speak about VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Reflecting on VUCA in the context of Covid-19 there was agreement that any long-term strategy had to be flexible. The longer the strategy, the greater the need for flexibility.


There was a sense that there was still little evidence of firms listening to clients at the strategy formation stage. There was a conclusion that listening to clients and employees and stakeholders in the formation of strategy would result in a better strategy, one better able to deal with assumption of change.


There was agreement of a need for simplicity to help deal with the complex.


Conclusion: Simplify – listen – flex


Engagement in business development

The multiplier in our Growth Equation is engagement by professionals in business development. It is the key factor in achieving growth.


Here the need to remove echo chambers was ever present. Whilst marketeers might discuss the difficulties of getting partners to work with them, partners often struggle with business development for a host of reasons – not least time. The client voice that should be beating in the halls is quickly lost as the struggle for “what should we be doing” takes over.


The key takeaways here were:

  • Marketing teams need to build trusted relationships with the firm

  • Success breads success

  • Clients want marketing teams in the room – and professionals can benefit from having this safety net and different approach present

  • Business Developers understand the firm and can approach a problem with less of an agenda. Their only agenda is to get to know the client. Perhaps the agenda should be for everyone to want to know each other?

  • Find out what the unrealised potential is in your team and work as a team to develop and grow capabilities

The desire for diverse thinking, starting with clients and then ending with engagement in business development, took an interesting turn. There was a discussion around the expectation that partners had to do it all (deliver, sell, innovate). Clients don’t see that need, and indeed feel that involving other parts of the business has benefits. The diverse thinking that comes from diverse teams was universally accepted as being a powerful driver for growth.


Transformation not innovation

Whilst not part of the equation, the conversation that it drew out in our event converged into a bigger theme: agreement that the legal industry needs transformation not innovation. Innovation can perhaps be best thought of as a big bang. A solution that emerges. Transformation is more gradual, but perhaps longer lasting. It is about looking at the heart of an industry and rethinking how things are done . It is about behaviour and mindsets.


There was a discussion about different models of law. However, it is not just about the where, it is about the how. A focus on delivering through a certain model, or through or with a certain technology, is less important than who is delivering and how they are doing that. We are an ecosystem with different players. How are teams made up? What ideas are brought to the room? Is there trust and bravery to put what you think on the table? Is every voice present, even the one you can’t see or hear?


Behaviours can change, they take longer to change than structures or processes, but when they do, they have, perhaps, a more profound impact.


To find out how Client Talk can help you on your journey to change the conversations you are having with and about your clients please contact us

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