The Universal Challenge: Earning the Right to Deliver Professional Services
I’m cruising above Salinas, Kansas at about 35,000 feet on US Airways from Chicago to Phoenix. I’m thinking about my next three days at the 18th Annual Marketing Partner Forum. Our CEO, Michael, and I were discussing the event before I left and he opined how he wished he were going and I noted that the program looked great and I was confident I would gain additional insight into the issues law firms are confronting but also the kinds of issues we face at Duo. It seemed to me that many hurdles faced by professional services firms are universal.
This year’s Forum, organized by The Hildebrandt Institute and West LegalEdcenter, attracts law firm marketing partners, managing partners, in house counsel and senior-level marketing and business development professionals who want to sharpen their knowledge about the emerging trends and forces shaping the legal business and the impact on law firm business development client service and client relations.
True to form, lawyers see themselves as a group confronting issues that are unique to their profession. In fact, there is some truth to this. State bar associations place behavior constraints on lawyers not found among others who deliver professional services. Moreover, law firms are commonly managed by their shareholder partners who attempt the challenging task of both managing their business while simultaneously practicing their craft.
Nevertheless, for those who acquire the professional services from lawyers, these distinctions are moot. And lawyers face the exact same issues as others who deliver professional services whether they are accountants, architects or, for that matter, Internet agencies like Duo Consulting. Today’s pre-conference agenda is my case in point:
The premise of one session on law firm profitability asserts that “clients are demanding increasing levels of cost predictability and value and services teams must find new and innovative ways to execute efficiently and profitably.” A second session called “Successful Approaches to Influencing and Negotiating” plays off the familiar theme that “everything you need to know in business you learn in kindergarten” including interpersonal negotiation skills and conflict resolution. And the session I plan to attend is based on the harsh reality that, more and more, professional services are being commoditized and acquired through an impersonal RFP process.
With no exception, these important topics confront all of us who strive to compete effectively in our effort to deliver professional services. Lawyers may put their spin on these issues, but in the end, we’re all rowing the same boat.