Client Intake: It's About Much More Than Just Checking Conflicts
In the world of solo and small law firms, "threshold law" describes the type of practice where a lawyer takes every case that comes across the threshold. However, even large firms aren't immune from their own form of "threshold law" as Bruce MacEwen describes in this post, Client Intake is Purely Operational. Not. MacEwen argues that law firms that view client intake solely as a matter of conflicts and credit checks and accept every client that passes muster under those tests miss an important opportunity to "determine the firm's future pipeline of demand."
So what does strategic, rather than ad hoc client intake look like? MacEwen gives several examples:
More than one Magic Circle firm that I know of turns down some clients in Asia who want them to represent them in IPO's because the firms don't want the imprimatur of their brand names to be borrowed for the shiny prestige value by clients potentially unworthy.
A major US firm is wary about launching in China because it does not discount rates, and rates in China are widely subject to great discounting pressure.
An AmLaw 25 firm is focused on three industries (these are not they, but assume for purposes of argument the industries are life sciences, high tech, and media) and therefore will not open offices, no matter how compelling the blandishments, in cities where those industries do not predominate.
You get the picture.
But strategic client intake doesn't stop at the doorway -- it's a continuous process. MacEwen emphasizes that just as firms should act thoughtfully in determining which clients to represent, they must also constantly evaluate whether ongoing representation continues to serve the firm. MacEwen suggests eliminating "small and episodic clients" whose individual matters are often unprofitable.
How does your firm decide which clients it wants to represent? And in this economic downturn, do firms feel more pressure to accept all clients that pass the threshhold test rather than making the kinds of strategic choices that MacEwen recommends?
Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 24, 2008 at 01:39 PM | Permalink
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