4. Why is there a lawyer-client disconnect

The most startling observation we make from our research for the FT Innovative Lawyers programme is the disconnect between what lawyers and clients consider to be value. Lawyers tend to value their legal input, clients the commercial output.

Despite firms putting forward to us their best work, in submissions where it can be assumed the clients should be very happy with them, a good 50% of submissions are weeded out on the client-lawyer disconnect. It is not that the clients do not appreciate their lawyers work. It is that they appreciate their lawyers for skills and attributes, which the lawyers might not even notice they are exhibiting.

We think this different opinion as to what constitutes value in legal work is the reason that clients tend to be less than satisfied with their lawyers. It goes beyond a difference in language.

It ultimately reflects the fact that as long as law firms are structured around their own product lines – and not their clients’ businesses or solutions – the disconnect will continue. Some firms have tried to come up with solutions to this problem through the creation of industry groups.

However, as industries converge, it is harder to categorise companies along traditional lines such as financial services or technology. There is a school of thought that all business will ultimately become software businesses. We feel the next iteration to this will be to organise law firms around topics or stages in the delivery process. For example, ‘make’, ‘deliver’ and ‘sell’. Some firms have begun to do this with some success.