In the high-stakes environment of leading law firms in Finland, customer experience is the new black. Differentiating, however, is challenging in a market where everyone is fiercely attempting to be the number one law firm delivering excellent service with the same Lego blocks: collaborating with the clients using the latest technology and focusing on talent while embracing the unprecedented change of 21st century. To make it in the face of intensified competition, one must speed up. Second, one must manage change.
EEven the fastest changing law firms are not changing fast enough compared to their clients. Looking back, much has changed. When I graduated from law school in 2000, law firms in Finland couldn’t care less about marketing or sales. It was an era of “eat what you kill” with transactional client relationships and word-of-mouth reputation was all that mattered. Active selling was considered almost shameful. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve heard “a job well-done is the best kind of marketing” but it’s definitely been more often than the times the clients were asked whether the job was indeed well-done. Client has always been the king, but nobody in this business, in the most noble of professions, has been talking about customer experience until recently.
“The catalyst for this transformation is the client and her changing expectations”
Today everyone is rushing as fast as they can to jump on the bandwagon of customer experience. The catalyst for this transformation is the client and her changing expectations of the modern law firm. In terms of winning a new client, having a good reputation for legal competence across a variety of practice areas is not an exceptionally good differentiator anymore. Client experience is.
Aligning KPIs with those of the client lies at the heart of figuring out what really matters to in-house counsels who are measured by how well they serve their business in achieving its targets – and manage costs. Understanding what the in-house counsels value for money requires a good chat with them and, at the minimum, a change of the angle – especially in this business traditionally obsessed about Rolls-Royce standards, sometimes regardless of the type of work assigned. Often a big part of the law firm work happens behind the scenes, much like in a heart surgery where the patient is in full narcosis. Sure, the patient expects to have the best possible surgeon cutting her open with the best possible knives. What makes the difference is the entirety, including the pre-op and post-op parts of the service, the points of contact that the patient actually feels and experiences herself.
In our own D&I Customer Satisfaction Survey in summer 2017, our clients were extremely happy with their client journey with us: how well we understood their business needs and collaborated with them on a daily basis. 98% of our clients who responded to the survey said they would recommend us. Without direct comparison to other market players, such praising results must obviously be taken with some grains of salt. We also take part in the currently ongoing Prospera Law Firm Review, the annual evaluation of the most respected Finnish law firms. Receiving feedback, especially critical, is very important for us in measuring our performance and in developing our customer experience further towards the best-in-class in Finland.
Much as with adopting AI, sometimes firms believe they can leapfrog necessary prerequisites and just begin exceeding client expectations as of tomorrow. Often the missing piece is not asking the client. The most important thing is the firm culture and its link to the strategy, neither of which can be disconnected from the clients. At D&I we strongly believe in our team-player culture. It is a culture not fit for everyone, but loved by our own people, as reflected in the 2017 Great Place to Work® Finland survey where we were ranked as one of the TOP 10 workplaces in Finland. Our culture lies at the core of our customer promise and experience. Our Powerhouse operating model is an efficient customer-centric cross-silo way of working enabling innovative and holistic solutions matching our clients’ business needs.
Developing both our culture and our way of working is a must-win especially in terms of our future clients and partners, the millennials, who are already part of the junior work force. They are different in subtle but fundamental ways: less loyal, more informed, value social connection and purpose – and care more about the brand than the current clients. They may want to go climbing for months every year and may not see the value of showing up at the office at 8 am unless they are indeed needed at that ungodly hour, but they are as ambitious as we are, looking for personal and professional development and opportunities to do groundbreaking, meaningful work. In this respect, we couldn’t be happier that based on law students’ votes, the Finnish Lawyers Association rated D&I the Best Law Student Employer of 2017 in Finland.
With curiosity and enthusiasm we continue building a modern law firm of the future with an exceptional history of 118 years. Personally, I have great expectations for 2018 and urge you to stay tuned for our exciting news during the first quarter of 2018. Please, have a chat with your trusted D&I advisors and why not give me a call as well. I would love to hear about your great expectations. I’ll trade them for a lunch.