Recently I was talking to a friend, about how to explain to people the way we deliver our private client and business to business services . Any legal adviser can source information and deliver a black letter statement. By adding a thoughtful process and our individual perspective, I think we can get better outcomes for clients. Here are a few points to consider that I think deliver superior service:-
Often the key is the way in which we engage with the client. We listen first and try to understand the clients preferred outcomes. We then define the scope of work with a list of deliverable items. Once we shape that engagement, we can then reach agreement on the budget for time and money, appropriate for that project. It gives us certainty as well as the client.
- The Relationship
We strive to have an ongoing legal relationship with our clients and engage with their other advisors, such as accountant and financiers. If we know the overall context that a transaction represents to the whole business, the advice can be tailored far more quickly and efficiently. We have a simple test, “we only recommend things that we would be prepared to do ourselves “. We like to have a regular thirty minute “check in” with a client and their accountant to see how they are moving through their business plans and where we might help.
- The Strategy
It is all important from the outset of a matter to identify the strategic outcomes that a client desires, rather than delivering a simple statement of advice. Sometimes it is what is not said rather than what is said or, the way it is said, that is all important. Timing is always critical, particularly in negotiations for commercial contracts. It is always better to understand the overarching business goal of the client and how far to take a point. The manner in which we engage in negotiations with a larger company is often just as important as the departures we are seeking in a contract. The rules are, be organised, make it easy for the larger company, identify your negotiation points early and respect the fact that you are one of many.
- The Collaboration
Internally, when we deal with matters we like to have free and open discussion about the strategic and technical points on a matter. This ensures that the client gets the best result possible and we think drives some innovation in the way we deliver those services. It is critical to us that we have close and open discussions with the accountants and financial advisers associated with the client so that we get the real context of the transaction and revenue consequences of the deal. More than this, it is a great benefit and more enjoyable to have a good personal relationship and involvement from the client with all advisors in an open way so that we are all working in the same direction. Often this achieves superior outcomes as it identifies goals in a broader business perspective which can be taken into account in the specific transaction.
- The Technical Side
One of the things that is difficult to deal with, is the sheer volume of legislation and regulation within which a business has to operate and which forms part of the basis of our advice. This platform is under constant change and is as hard for us as it is for the client. We have considerable pressure to follow certain procedures as required by our insurers to deliver key advice in a transaction, but we want to make it as easy to follow and to provide instructions on as possible. We do this by having a system of a technical advice, together with a simplified summary of recommendation. We prefer to use a schedule of negotiations to identify clauses in documents to make it easier for all parties to follow. We always provide a diagram of the core entities involved to ensure that the most important issues are clearly understood between the client and ourselves.
- Knowledge Sharing
We do our best to share knowledge wherever possible with our client and referral sources, to ensure they are kept up to date in respect of changes in the law. Sometimes this is by providing information sheets about our perspective on that particular area of law. We can also provide case studies to demonstrate where we have collaborated with the accountant, to provide an improved structure that delivers better revenue outcomes. We like to share industry knowledge and simply talk to our clients from time to time to see what is happening in their business.
Please call me and make the time to have a combined discussion with your accountant and financial advisor. It pays great dividends to get the strategy right before transactions arise and helps build the relationship for the future. From my perspective, over almost 20 years of observing business transactions, these points can make a huge difference to the outcomes for our clients. I look forward to my next round of “check in” conversations with you and thanks for the opportunity to collaborate!