Friday, February 13, 2009

How are your clients handling the economic crisis?

February 12, 2009. Black Thursday. The day 800 legal jobs were cut. It's easy to wince and wonder what is happening to the profession, what it will look like when the crisis is over, how firms will be structured, who will be left standing. It's easy to point fingers at that which led us to this point: hourly biling, rates, salaries, profits, arrogance, greed. But the easiest of all is to forget that clients have been living this nightmare longer than law firms, that the stakes for corporate clients have never been this high, and that corporate layoffs are truly massive. February 10? Nearly 24,500 job cuts announced. January 26? More than 40,000. 

This doesn't make the legal layoffs any less significant for the profession. Nor does it mean that we're wrong to be scared about the future. But it does mean that your clients are probably just as scared as you are, just as worried about keeping their companies intact, just as sensitive to the drastic measures their competitors are taking to survive. How are they handling the crisis? Do you know? Don't you think they would appreciate a call from their lawyer? Not to ask if they have work to give, but to ask how they are surviving, what they are doing to cut costs and raise revenues, what difficult decisions they are struggling to make? How would they react to you calling to ask "What can I do to help you get through this?" To say "I am ready to do whatever it takes to make sure that you survive, because if you go out of business, I go out of business too."  To reassure them that "right now, I don't care about recording hours, I care about getting you through this crisis." 

Do you think they would like that? Do you think they would reward you? Maybe not today, because today all they can do is keep their head above water, but tomorrow when the storm has passed? There's one way to find out. Make your list and start making calls. Because the cost of not making that call, of not giving your advice for free, of not rolling up your sleeves to get your clients through this mess, of not providing real value when your clients need it the most, that cost could be a lot higher than the 20 or 50 or even 200 hours you won't collect. But you already know that, don't you?

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