Sustaining our ‘outsourced in-house’ or retainer counsel service
We think our ‘outsourced in-house’ or retainer counsel service meets a niche in the market. It offers a nice mix of characteristics associated with in-house counsel and external law firms.
However, most of its advantages come from stability and consistency in delivering our services. Here are our thoughts on sustaining our model for the longer term.
Efficient premises costs
We maintain low premises costs, like many in-house counsel.
We meet with clients at their offices or over coffee close by. We catch up with potential clients at conferences or seminars in the City or industry hubs.
We maintain an occasional office in CBD Singapore. Most of the time, we are working and collaborating as a team outside the CBD.
Our membership in a serviced office provider gives us access to business lounges around the world. That means we can continue working during periods between meetings no matter where our last or next meeting is.
Lower marketing costs
Like in-house counsel, our ‘marketing’ consists of our lawyers building strong relationships with clients while giving them great legal support.
We do this by encouraging “bulk-buying” of our services by offering “bulk-buy” or retainer rates. Retainers help us better forecast our workload and we’re not under pressure to hustle for the next job. Getting to know clients and building relationships can be at a more organic pace.
We don’t have a marketing department, specialist client development or pricing experts. Our lawyers take responsibility for the whole relationship including better pricing. Our lawyers grow up more cognisant of pricing and costs as key components of consistent long term service delivery.
Less bureaucracy, more efficient administration
We keep administration simple – although, it is not a battle we always win!
We keep a tight team who are comfortable with our ‘self-help’ philosophy. Our team members are all willing to pitch in on tasks both big and small, without drama.
We use technology and we (try to) keep up with changes in that space. We learn from each other’s use of different technology products.
We have evolving systems to track our tasks and progress on shared projects. Ultimately, that ensures we spend more time doing and thinking and less time meeting or reminding.
Lower IT costs and better individual understanding of IT
We buy IT infrastructure support as a service. That means that we usually have the most up-to-date versions which leads to better productivity…or at least an awareness of what’s ahead. It also means we leave security and reliability to IT experts that deal with these issues day in and day out for large and small companies.
We encourage individual responsibility for IT hardware. Our lawyers choose their laptop or tablet and own this outright after a period of working with us. That means our lawyers have to understand the products they choose – and in the process of choosing, they educate the rest of us on what’s out there.
Targeted insurance costs
We replicate the same liability regime as that for in-house counsel where we are retained.
That means that our clients may choose to buy insurance and it isn’t automatically bundled into all pricing packages.
Competitive rewards for our lawyers?
We aim to reward our lawyers competitively.
We want to work with great lawyers because they produce excellent results for our clients and they are fun to work with! We also want lawyers who share our vision and will stay for the longer term – great lawyers get better the more they work with a client and in the same team.
Great lawyers will always have attractive alternatives. How do we compete? Our hunch is that we need focus on at least two things – productivity and thinking about rewards holistically.
Where to from here
Sustaining our ‘outsourced in-house’ or retainer counsel model is important to ensuring we are able to provide a consistent long-term solution for our clients.
- Being creative about unpacking legal services as traditionally delivered and focusing on what matters to our clients;
- Being patient and finding clients for whom the model works instead of trying to do things the way everyone else does; and
- Being vigilant about our costs – both monetary and non-monetary ones.
We are a boutique law firm based in Singapore providing quality business law solutions for clients in the Asia Pacific region.