By Larry Bodine
Chicago's Sachnoff & Weaver has published another superb annual review. This year's 48-page glossy report recounts 22 major client stories from 2005, and the headlines that summarize each successful outcome are the zenith of succinctness: “Acting as the receiver of a defunct asset management company, S&W recovered approximately $5.5 million for defrauded investors—a 64 percent recovery of allowed claims.” Bulleted lists of other cases follow in each practice area. The review by the 145-lawyer firm pops the cork in several other ways, too, including the client testimonials interspersed with the success stories. For example, Earl Matzkin, President of Geneva International Corporation, is quoted saying, “What I value most about my relationship with Sachnoff's attorneys is the deep interest they've taken in my business.” Color pictures jump off the pages, enlivening all the stories—plus, “happy talk” is kept to a minimum. The intro from the firm's CEO and president runs an amazingly concise 244 words. This is a model for law firms everywhere.
Most of us have heard by now that word processing and legal research work is being sent to places like India and the Philippines—but now law firms are sending marketing work offshore! At a recent Association of Legal Administrators conference in Montreal, Erica Tamblyn of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy recounted how her firm turned to the offshoring company OfficeTiger to create an advertisement. The day following the assignment, the firm had six prototypes in hand, created with computers and stock photography: “We selected one that was terrific.” Robert Altschuler, co-founder of OfficeTiger in New York, said that the top 200 U.S. law firms are currently spending $850 million in marketing services from offshore providers.
I learned a shocking statistic from Marcie L. Borgal, a principal of The BTI Consulting Group in Massachusetts. In “The Declining Client Satisfaction Antidote," she reports this finding from BTI's research: “Client satisfaction rates among the Fortune 1000 plummeted by nearly 15 percentage points during the last year. Local and regional markets fared little better.” What's the problem? She says three critical law firm behaviors underlie falling client satisfaction, according to clients: (1) not keeping up with changing client needs, (2) doing a poor job of articulating and delivering value, and (3) poor communication. This is bad news for firms with unhappy clients. For their competitors, it is client-hunting season.