Acritas’ Shines Light on Top Legal Brands

Acritas, a leading provider of research in the UK, Europe and the US, provided an insightful glimpse last night into what’s on the mind of global elite buyers of legal services. The final study will incorporate  1,000 interviews of an impressive cast of companies. The survey participants include public and private companies in all of the major rankings and stock indices including Forbes, Fortune 1000, FT 500 US, NASDAQ 100, NYSE Composite, AMEX 100, Dow 30 and the S&P 500.

The study will be a cold bucket of water for many major law firms. But bottom line it is information any savvy marketer would want to have at their fingertips. It can help you understand your competitive set and know how your firm is perceived. The amount of data that can be drilled down and analyzed is impressive.

Stuck in a Time Warp

In 2002, I was totally dismayed when a senior partner at an AmLaw 100 firm dressed me down for recommending they spend their hard earned money on the World Wide Web. He described the Internet as a passing fancy for geeks. Fast forward to a week ago when once again I was in a major law firm and this time just got blank looks when I talked about the impact of social networking on business to business marketing. A highly talented lawyer, in his early 50s, said social networking was for high schoolers. (In all fairness I think this lawyer still has his secretary print out his emails for him to read).

So we have decided to start formally collecting the stories about how people have become connected in business through social networking whether it be general sites like Facebook or restricted networks for lawyers like Martindale Hubbell Connected. Stay tuned for what we learn.

Controlling Cost of Outside Counsel Leads ACC Survey

The Association of Corporate Counsel just released a new study on the top priorities of in-house counsel. It should come as no surprise that cost control is beating out compliance concerns.  The results of the 2009 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey, a collaboration between the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Serengeti Law, were just released yesterday at ACC’s Annual Meeting in Boston. The ACC press release sums up the new priorities:

“While compliance issues had reigned for three years, economic factors from the past year have altered the key focus for in-house counsel. The need to drive efficiency is leading to more value-based policies to reduce overall legal spend.  Such policies include requiring minimum levels of associate experience, discounts for early payment of bills, engaging in RFPs, and reducing the number of law firms representing the company. For those firms they retain, clients are looking to negotiate more flexible value-based fee and service models.

Responsiveness is the key deliverable now expected of outside counsel.  With new data this year related to the ACC Value Challenge, an initiative to reconnect the cost of legal services with value, it is important to note that the majority of in-house counsel (69.9%) provided specific suggestions to their outside counsel to increase the value of their services. While hourly rates are still the norm, use of alternative fee structures rose to 61% of in-house counsel.  In particular, fixed fees (38.0% of in-house counsel), project retainers (15.4%) and contingency fees (10.5%) are increasingly popular alternatives. Furthermore, for next year, in-house counsel predict no increase in hourly rates – a first ever in the nine years of the survey.

Check out more details at http://www.acc.com/aboutacc/newsroom/pressreleases/2009/Serengeti2009.cfm.

555 Is More Than An Address

The New York Times wrote a great article recently about the “foodie culture” in Portland, Maine. I enjoyed the article because Portland is my current hometown and for years I thought the food scene had been largely confined to buzz about Fore Street’s Chef Sam Hayward. Chef Hayward was named Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation. Now don’t get me wrong – Fore Street is certainly a good restaurant (although I prefer the sister restaurant, Street and Company). But last Saturday night, I had an amazing meal. In fact, it rivaled a meal that I had at the Inn at Little Washington in 1991.

Six of us nestled into a table at Five Fifty-Five or 555. I had asked Chef Steve Corry to prepare a birthday dinner that included as many of my husband’s favorite foods as feasible. I also provided some other hints such as he prefers savory over sweet, robust over subtle and spices of all kinds. The five course dinner unfolded in a way that is impossible to describe without blathering on. But suffice it to say everything from the wine pairings to the food to the service was perfect.  So my advice is if you come to Portland, plan ahead and order a tasting menu at 555. You will have an experience that rivals everything from Nobu to August to Boulevard.

Where Are We Headed? Legal Luminaries Opine

Many of my colleagues know that I have been restoring a rustic 1814 New England inn for the last several years. It is nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and my ATT fancy iPhone still doesn’t work there. Plus our dial-up connection at 1995 speeds discourages the use of the Internet. So I do something novel when there — I mostly just think. It is a skill we are all getting rusty in as we spend most of our time in perpetual motion.

So recently I read with delight how many legal luminaries actually value the art of thinking. If you haven’t picked up Bright Ideas edited by Leigh Dance now is the time to do so. This collection of 26 essays from legal luminaries — in-house counsel,  law firm managing partners and service providers in the legal industry  — is a thought provoking book. Perhaps my favorite part is the book’s objective to advance the structure, management and transparency of corporate legal services. Learn more about the book at www.BrightIdeasGlobalLaw.com.