United States: The Full-Service Client Partnership Model: A Primer For Law Firms

Last Updated: July 19 2016
Article by Michael R. Caplan

The billable hour. Competition from unexpected sources. A consolidating industry. The market for legal services has shifted in fundamental ways, and its evolution presents challenges for law firms. But change also offers opportunities. Law firms today need to think differently, and importantly in this market, look to differentiate themselves.

The client/law firm relationship is constantly changing. Clients are increasingly focused on firms who "invest" in their risk and their business. Those who invest will master these relationships institutionally and will stand apart. Some suggest that great work at a competitive price is all that clients want from their law firms. All AmLaw 100 firms do great work, but great work is not a differentiator. Price is also not a differentiator. The key differentiator is something law firms talk about all the time but rarely master—a true strategic relationship with clients. It sounds simple, but aligning this relationship—the priorities of lawyer and client—is essential for any firm that hopes to succeed in today's market.

When law firms treat client relationships as strategic partnerships, flexibility, transparency and communication are paramount, investment in risk and reward is shared, and all firm resources are leveraged for the client's benefit. Only then does the relationship grow and prosper.

In the current market, law firms need to manage client relationships by providing advice through two or the practice of law, and through legal operations, or the business of law. Lawyers are the primary resource for their clients, but a firm's professional staff—its operations, pricing, technology, knowledge management, human resources and marketing experts—can be an untapped source of value, and proactively sharing their expertise with clients (delivering non-legal services) is essential to broadening and deepening the law firm/client relationship.

Combining the practice of law with the business of law allows firms to provide clients with a full-service offering and a strategic opportunity to collaborate and innovate as partners.

This full-service client partnership model can manifest in several ways.

Sharing PMO Strategies. Corporations have long relied on their program management offices (PMOs) to tackle large-scale technology projects and other key initiatives. Law firms are starting to realize the value of PMOs as they manage multimillion-dollar initiatives for data security, technology, space, cloud infrastructure and ongoing legal matters. Corporate legal departments face the same project management demands around people, budgets and deadlines for IT and other projects. Firms and in-house legal departments need more efficient ways to manage risk and optimize their data, and PMOs offer a welcome resource for organizations looking to complete projects in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Establishing a PMO begins by developing a set of standardized processes for all projects to ensure consistency across reporting, resourcing, timing and budgeting. With a standard methodology in place to manage projects, prioritize objectives and create best practices, organizations can bring more efficiency to each project, manage costs and ensure consistent alignment with evolving needs.

Law firms and corporate legal departments have similar PMO processes and challenges, and sharing best practices to promote operational efficiency and consistency can help drive a relationship from client/service provider to a more strategic partnership. It can also lead to a greater understanding of a client's businesses, goals and pressure points. Firms whose professional staffs are working with clients to help establish PMO plans and solutions are thinking proactively and differently.

Consulting on Operational and Technology Support. Enterprise legal management (ELM), the practice management strategy of corporate legal departments, uses software to manage internal legal documents and workflows, generate electronic bills and invoices, and guide decision-making through reporting and analytics.

When a company needs help with legal operations and technology, calling its law firm is rarely the first choice, or even the second. But given the similar market challenges firms and legal departments face, law firms have a significant opportunity to add value for clients by proactively sharing knowledge and offering support in this area.

This can take many forms, such as helping with a vendor analysis for e-billing, or advising on matter, knowledge or document management, or assisting with the development of outside counsel billing guidelines. Law firm pricing managers, IT managers and COOs are ideally positioned to help clients with IT planning. This can include consulting on RFPs, providing roadmaps, introducing clients to other clients with similar goals and/or to those who have already implemented comparable systems and technology. And firms can help with templates and process throughout.

Creating Best Practice Panels for Outside Counsel. One of a legal COO's primary challenges is to articulate his or her department's value in business terms to the company's CEO, CFO and other leaders. As a result, legal COOs are always eager to hear about ways to increase efficiency and cost control in their spend for outside counsel.

Facilitating introductions to their peers by arranging panels, meetings and other gatherings gives legal COOs the opportunity to discuss needs, share best practices and consult with those who might have already encountered (and solved) a particularly vexing issue.

The information and knowledge imparted at these events can help legal COOs navigate the ELM sector, make strategic investment key sources: traditional lawyering, decisions, and help their organizations evolve to the next level. Most important, though, the law firm organizing events like these is helping the client's legal COO be successful in his or her job. This creates a deeper bond with the client and leads to a strengthened relationship.

Sharing Risk/Reward Investment with Clients. Alternative fee structures, like the traditional billable hour arrangement, are about more than just price. Any fee arrangement should involve shared risk and reward, detailed project management and advance planning, closer alignment between law firms and clients on goals and objectives, and consistent two-way communication.

Partnered investment in risk/ reward for law firms means proactively pitching it to clients rather than passively responding to it. It is work that needs to be done together, with full transparency and as part of a trusted advisory relationship.

There is no magic bullet that guarantees success, but the cornerstone for all fee arrangements is trust. Trust is essential during both the development and execution phases. It ensures a win-win engagement that incorporates the interests of both client and law firm, and results in value and predictability. Strategic alignment, accurate scoping, active tracking and matter management, and consistent and timely communication are also critical.

These are just some of the ways Goodwin Procter is engaging with clients to provide a full-service approach that leverages both lawyers (the practice of law) and professional staff (the business of law). Goodwin hears consistently from clients on the value of this approach:

  • Mati Gill, Global Legal COO and Senior Director of Government Affairs at Teva Pharmaceuticals:

Legal technology platforms have become critical enablers for corporate legal groups in global companies. Having a partner with an intimate understanding of our business needs is of extreme value for Teva Legal Group. Goodwin Procter helps us navigate the multiple offerings available on the market—billing, matter management, document review, etc. They advise on processes, vendor selection and overall implementation. Led by Chairman David Hashmall, Goodwin Procter is an important partner. COO Michael Caplan brings indispensable corporate experience and sees applicable solutions through our eyes—a tremendous help to integrating the right platforms and customizing them to our needs.

  • David Allen, Senior VP and Deputy GC at MassMutual:

Firms that focus on operational aspects of their relationships with corporate clients are differentiating themselves. For years, MassMutual and Goodwin Procter have worked closely together on transactions, litigation and diversity initiatives. Recently, the relationship has been enhanced as a direct result of both entities' concentrated efforts on efficiency. Quite simply, Goodwin demonstrates that they "get it" by empowering their COO, Mike Caplan, to build the operational bridge with their clients by partnering and consulting on new challenges in the rapidly evolving legal service delivery model. This places the firm at a strategic advantage in terms of our selection of counsel.

  • Darren Guy, Global Legal COO at McGraw Hill Financial:

Goodwin's ability to collaborate in the legal operations space only enhances their overall effectiveness as a complete legal services provider. They remain excellent partners to us.

The benefits accruing from the full-service client partnership model also include enhanced business development efforts, increased collaboration among a firm's attorneys and professional staff, and, as a result, a stronger institutional culture.

Law firm partners will always lead the client relationships and business development work, but the smart ones know that the folks on the assembly line putting on the tires are just as important as the people selling the car. If the tires are not on right, the salespeople and the organization are going to suffer.

And for law firms looking to succeed in today's market, full-service performance for clients is truly where the rubber meets the road.

Previously published in the May 9, 2016 edition of the New York Law Journal.

Goodwin Procter LLP is one of the nation's leading law firms, with a team of 700 attorneys and offices in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The firm combines in-depth legal knowledge with practical business experience to deliver innovative solutions to complex legal problems. We provide litigation, corporate law and real estate services to clients ranging from start-up companies to Fortune 500 multinationals, with a focus on matters involving private equity, technology companies, real estate capital markets, financial services, intellectual property and products liability.

This article, which may be considered advertising under the ethical rules of certain jurisdictions, is provided with the understanding that it does not constitute the rendering of legal advice or other professional advice by Goodwin Procter LLP or its attorneys. © 2013 Goodwin Procter LLP. All rights reserved.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams
Catalyst Consulting
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams
Catalyst Consulting
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions