Companies want the best legal advice for ‘bet the company deals’

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Companies continue to prioritise the quality of the legal advice they receive above cost when instructing lawyers, according to a major piece of research conducted by Legal Week Intelligence, Legal Week’s research arm.

Companies continue to prioritise the quality of the legal advice they receive above cost when instructing lawyers, according to a major piece of research conducted by Legal Week Intelligence, Legal Week’s research arm.

The survey of nearly 1,400 senior in-house lawyers and company executives shows that although value for money is an important factor when seeking legal advice, the quality of the advice they receive remains of paramount importance.

The findings come despite sustained pressure on law firms by their clients to provide better value for money, particularly by using flexible fee arrangements and capped fees.

The annual Client Satisfaction Report, which is now in its 10th year, asks general counsel to rate the advice they receive from the law firms they instruct against eight criteria: quality of advice, quality of legal advice, quality of commercial advice, service delivery, partner relationships, cost and billing transparency, use of legal process outsourcing (LPO), flexible workforce deployment and use of technology.

Respondents are also asked to measure how important these criteria are to them.

Out of 10, clients place an average value of 9.52 on the importance of the quality of legal advice provided. This is followed by service delivery (9.04) and the quality of the commercial advice (8.71).

With a score of 7.59, cost and billing transparency is the fourth most important factor clients consider when instructing lawyers.

The survey found that law firms fall short of client expectations across six out of the eight measurements, including the five most important criteria. The average score firms receive for quality of legal advice is 8.52, compared to the importance rating of 9.52. When it comes to cost and billing transparency, law firms received a score of 7.05, compared to the importance rating of 7.59.

More encouragingly for the legal sector, the survey indicates that law firms have succeeded in maintaining the quality of their advice despite the pressure to cut fees.

The average satisfaction level among clients for quality of legal advice edged up from 8.50 in 2012 to 8.52 in 2013, while satisfaction with the quality of commercial advice held steady at 8.0.

While satisfaction with cost and billing practices did slip, from 7.2 to 7.05, so did the level of importance ascribed to cost/billing by clients.

James Mayer, senior research analyst at Legal Week Intelligence, said: “The findings of this research demonstrate that clients still expect the best legal advice. For ‘bet the company deals’ it simply isn’t an option to compromise on legal advice. Even with more run of the mill work, the cost of getting it wrong can be immeasurable. Nevertheless, law firms continue to disappoint when it comes to the cost of their advice and fee transparency and the pressure to provide value for money is unlikely to go away, even with the prospect of the UK economy improving in 2014.”

Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and flexible workforces

This year, for the first time, the research looked at the various legal process outsourcing options that have increased in recent times as firms attempt to control costs on day-to-day work. Clients gave an average rating of just 4.4 out of 10 when asked to grade the importance of LPO use. However, satisfaction levels with LPO scored an average of 5.7 out of 10 – one of the few areas in the report where contentment with service levels outstripped the relative importance they were given.

Survey demographics

  • 106 law firms rated: UK International, US international, City and National firms
  • 70% of respondents from FTSE 100
  • Respondents: 65% UK, 13% EU, 12% US, 4% Africa, 4% Asia, 2% Middle East
  • City firms have the highest overall scores, followed by UK international firms and national firms.

The Client Satisfaction Report will be released in December 2013, analysing these findings in detail and assessing the performance of the 75 largest law firms.

For further information on the Client Satisfaction Survey and Report please contact James Mayer on 020 7316 9042 or james(dot)mayer(at)incisivemedia(dot)com

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Duncan Campbell
Incisive Media
+44 20 7004 7426 Ext: 7426
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