Customer value in legal services
I have been a business customer of both in-house counsels and law firms for roughly fifteen years. When thinking back, my initial thought is that these have mostly been cases when I've needed support in structuring various co-operation arrangements, in M&A situations, and in other corporate reorganization situations. However, a significant amount of legal support around and in my business through the years has been rendered (almost) unnoticed by me.
How is that? As a general manager, my focus has been, and is, in the long-term business success of my organization. I have worked in a couple of companies which have been able to build rather extensive in-house legal teams, covering the necessary competence areas. I've not really thought where or when I would need legal support. It's often been provided either invisibly to me when my colleagues have been advised by the lawyers directly or when we have been applying some procedures a legal expert has originally designed. Also, the support has often been offered to me proactively. Like that one time, when a keen-eyed lawyer colleague called and told that it's time to refresh our sales team's knowledge about competition law and that she would arrange training for this. While I initially felt resistance about the idea (sales peoples' time is precious and why is this topic important anyway), she patiently explained the reasons and made me see the relevance. This was but one of several instances over the years when I could enjoy the fact that someone was watching over my business for any risks and was helping me to manage those. And when I was, indeed, able to just focus on the business.
But when you step away from those larger, multinational corporations, it can get very cold and lonely out there for a business manager. The same risks – and naturally also opportunities – are there. But if your company does not have the extensive in-house legal team, you need to become your own counsel in both managing risk and in tapping into the opportunities. Sure enough, there are ways forward. One way is to ignore it all and hope for the best. This is a bit like speeding blindfolded in a freeway. The other 'easy' options are to hire a lawyer or buy external legal support by the hour. A few years ago I was faced with this situation. Then just as now, I realized that it's not the one full-time lawyer or some hours that I need. The real value for me as a manager of a mid-sized company was in the fact that I could run my business, while being able to trust that the legal support is there when I needed it – and even better, also when I don't know I need it.
I've often liked to think customer value in terms of what it is that the pride of Finnish business, KONE, does. They make elevators, escalators, autowalks, etc. But the true value their customers receive is an assurance of safe and efficient transport of people and things from one place to another.
We at Fondia are working on the similar kind of a premise. While traditionally the external legal service providers have sold their work by the hour, we want to go further and respond to the real needs our customers have. Based on a legal analysis, we make a plan and form a team of lawyers, with needed competencies, and provide continuous service to the business as if we were their own in-house legal team. Our customer's core business is not about buying or consuming legal services, let alone hours. We want to make sure that the customer can safely focus on their goals. Our motto is 'We law your business' – and this way we want to help the businesses we serve move successfully from today to the future.