Terry Pritchard (left) and Lisa Mayhew are co-chairs of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, an international 1,400-attorney firm that is the result of a 2018 merger between Bryan Cave and UK-based Berwin Leighton Paisner. Pritchard, who is based in Washington, D.C., and London-based Mayhew teamed up 18 months ago to make the combined entity work seamlessly across practice areas, industries and locations. The two leaders have leveraged technology and the breadth of their lawyers’ expertise to build a firm that truly works in partnership with its clients. Next year, Mayhew will remain as co-chair while Pritchard will be succeeded by Steven Baumer, a partner based in St. Louis.
Lawdragon: How has the concept of client service in the legal industry changed in recent years?
Terry Pritchard: Firms are partnering with clients to look at businesses holistically, rather than taking a transactional approach. Essentially we are trying to be long-term business partners with our clients. This is something that we have always done as a firm, create relationships, and I think it’s more important today than ever before.
Lisa Mayhew: This is something that we are formalizing in terms of firm initiatives, and now we are definitely seeing this approach more broadly in the legal industry. Also, I will say that both our legacy firms, Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner, have always taken a business-minded approach to legal work. What are the pain points? What are the challenges from a business standpoint, and how can we be useful?
LD: What are the drivers for this change?
LM: We are definitely seeing increased competition for legal services and from other professional services firms and consultancies. There are just more entities vying for this business, whether that be the accounting firms, the law firms, or the management consultants. Also, frankly, there are so many options in terms of legal services, particularly in the case of high volume legal work. But ultimately it does go back to client service and clients want a firm that can handle the sophisticated, intricate legal work as well as the high volume work.
TP: Agreed, we are positioning ourselves to be able to handle everything because that is what the marketplace demands. This is evident in the thought leadership that our lawyers provide in connection with the most complex matters that our clients have. It is also evident in our innovation offering BCLP Cubed. The innovation team helps us provide a unique offering of end-to-end solutions that combine complex advisory, volume legal and operational legal services.
LD: How has the merger impacted your approach to client service?
TP: In fact this merger was really about client service. We are now able to meet our clients where they are, literally and figuratively. We have an expanded, broader geographic footprint, and we have a deeper bench of expertise thanks to this combination. We are currently a 1,400-attorney firm.
LM: Regular client feedback is essential to providing great client service. We have surveyed clients through our UK office in the past and will be conducting a global client survey in the coming months to gather data. We want to offer our clients the opportunity to provide feedback and help us improve our services, thereby strengthening our relationships with our clients. The survey also will provide us with a benchmark from which we can measure our own progress in client satisfaction.
LD: You say the merger was about client service. How so?
LM: For both of us, as we considered merger partners, we were looking for a firm whose number one priority was already client service. We were both seeing the writing on the wall in terms of client demand, and also we believe this is just the right way to have a successful firm.
TP: And if you look at the reasons that we were considering merging in the first place, it was really about what we could offer to clients. More of what they need, from lawyers that they know and trust, without having to refer them elsewhere.
LD: From your perspective, how is the legal industry approaching client service today?
TP: We see that the successful firms, like BCLP, are helping clients work smarter, and are delivering work to clients in smarter, more cost effective ways. For example, we have launched a combined legal operations consultancy called Cantilever, to help clients improve legal operations and service delivery. We build complete solutions for clients that include not only legal advice, but also the processes and technologies necessary to put that advice into action. These solutions improve the functioning of legal departments and their relationships with business units, and ultimately the company’s revenues.
LM: I would just add that overall, firms have to look at client service as a driver of growth.
LD: Innovation is a buzzword that we hear a lot lately. How does BCLP innovate?
LM: We spend a lot of time thinking about the “how” of legal services delivery, and this informs our approach to innovation. We also foster an environment where innovation is valued and prized. And this is all, of course inspired by our desire to provide optimal client service. For example, we are focused on using technology and innovation to connect client data to lawyers across our firm. To manage documents, to connect our combined knowledge and expertise, and to price services in a way that delivers value to clients.
TP: We are also aiming to inspire our attorneys to have their thinking caps on. We recently announced the Innovation Champions program, a firmwide initiative that will enable anyone who is passionate about applying new technology, improving processes and understanding data in ways that deliver more effective solutions for clients, to get involved and drive change. Our Business Academy is an annual event that brings together associates from all over the world for a problem solving “hackathon.” We’ve had some great ideas come out of this.
LD: How does BCLP leverage technology?
TP: Our track record of leading the legal industry stretches back decades and it is part of our core business strategy to deliver services in a way that meets our clients’ operational and business objectives. We were one of the first firms to have software engineers on staff, so technology is really part of our heritage. We were early adopters of artificial intelligence and were the first to win a case in the UK High Court using predictive coding technology. We pioneered radical pricing approaches to cut clients’ costs and increase fee certainty. We created a contract lawyer solution that broke new ground and formed the first managed legal service partnerships with clients. And we created an award-winning workflow platform for use by in-house legal teams.
LM: And we really invest in innovation and technology. We are thought-leaders in legal innovation and our clients look to us to find new ways to solve their commercial and legal challenges. Cantilever is our combined legal operations consultancy division that supports our clients’ in-house teams in improving their legal operations and service delivery to their businesses.
LD: What specifically are you offering to your clients?
TP: Whether we are working with a new or established client, we don’t employ a one-size-fits-all approach. Our lawyers are both brilliant and innovative, and our clients choose to work with us because we constantly look for new ways to optimize our workflow, collaborate more effectively and deliver legal services more efficiently.
LD: What are you focused on right now?
LM: We are focused on being the most connected firm. Connected to each other, our clients, and the industries that they serve. We pride ourselves on a deep knowledge of our clients’ industries, and a deep understanding of their unique business challenges.
TP: For us, understanding and meeting client needs equals growing client business. We meet their needs by being the best in the business at solving their problems and helping them reach their business goals.
LD: What can you say about the future of the legal industry?
TP: Well, clearly client service will continue to be at the core of any successful firm. There will continue to be a movement towards a client-centric, business partner model.
LM: Law firms have to reflect the current marketplace in which their clients operate. Under the umbrella of client service there is innovation and technology, of course, but also diversity. Law firms have to make diversity and inclusion part of daily life. We want diverse voices on our matters because that is how we provide the most useful work product to our clients. This is crucial to our success and growth as a firm. We place such a high priority on diversity and inclusiveness because we know that it enriches the quality and fabric of our firm: for our people, and our clients.