Currently the Chief Legal & Regulatory Affairs Officer at Jamii Telecommunications Limited,Caroline Simba started her career as a legal associate at a Nairobi law firm, so she’s seen both sides of the coin. She believes lawyers need to shift their mindsets from the traditional legal models.
“We are in the service industry and clients’ needs have changed,” she emphasised. “They demand exceptional quality legal services which calls for value addition. External forces are now impacting how businesses operate. I know firms who are already seconding their lawyers to their clients’ in-house departments – locally and internationally. It is a strategy for staying on top of the client’s mind which guarantees repeat business.”
As someone who moved from a legal practice to being an in-house lawyer, Simba commented that the draw is that in-house lawyers are business partners. “Because of the unique characteristics of certain businesses, for example the tech industry – where it is very difficult to get external lawyers who understand technology – it becomes imperative for companies to hire in-house lawyers who grow with the business and help manage risks from within. So the demand is predominantly buyer-driven. The lawyers who may be drawn to moving in-house are those who wish to specialise and carve out a competitive edge for themselves.”
Despite the high number of companies with in-house divisions, many firms are still outsourcing their non-core businesses as they focus on cost savings. Simba says there is still a large need for outside consultation because in-house lawyers are predominantly industry specialists. “Companies are forced to outsource work which is outside their in-house lawyer’s scope of specialisation, for example litigation, competition or tax matters,” she commented.
However, Simba says few external lawyers are up to speed with the ever-evolving client needs and dynamic, highly competitive business world. “I believe that more than half of cases on appeal could be dispensed with in the first instance if lawyers took time to research, identify and critically analyse the issues.”
She suggests a number of ways in which law firms can get more business from companies:
Add value by offering some pro bono legal advice which some large firms are doing by conducting client seminars or sharing monthly bulletins with their clients on diverse topics targeted to specific clients. “For example, if there is a new copyright legislation, the targeted audience will be clients who may directly be impacted by the legislation.”
Improve law firm efficiency (and reduce costs) by making the most of legal tech tools.
Personalise services and make the most of their brand. “Clients retain you because of your ‘solid’ reputation,” she said. “Certain matters – considering scope, costs involved and legal risk – should not be delegated to junior advocates especially without disclosure.”
Stay in contact with clients once a matter has been finalised, visit them and perhaps add further value by “offering unsolicited pro bono legal advice for straightforward matters such as review of recent legislation”.
Stay relevant by keeping abreast of developing issues around the world outside the law. “Knowledge development is a precursor for long-term growth,” she emphasised. “It is not always a question of billable hours, but relevance.”
Be innovative and work out strategies to monetise legal services. “Case in point is the growth of alternative legal service providers who provide clients with lower-cost, more efficient and technology-fuelled services.”
Invest in quality training for associates. “Talent development is part of strategic positioning.”
For further insights on Simba’s discussion on this topic view her LinkedIn postshere andhere.
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