Tom Kilroy is General Counsel at a publicly quoted company, leading a team of around 35 people. His blog, GC’s Eye View, is sub-titled Thoughts on law and business from a General Counsel at a publicly traded company. Those who offer professional services to such companies, and who want to know what they look like from the other side of the desk, would find it illuminating to read Tom’s occasional thoughts on his blog and to follow him on Twitter.
The title of his latest post is Big 4 a reason, and you do not need great powers of deduction to guess from this that the article has positive things to say about PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. It is not that Tom is particularly critical of law firms, but they suffer by the comparison with the Big 4 in the way that they relate to their clients.
The Big 4, Tom says, are “thoughtful about what is really important to their clients” and “think very carefully about how to engage with and develop their current and future clients.” The overall impression, it seems, is of a common interest in client and professional adviser working together which (one deduces) is not evident in dealings with law firms as a class.
One sentence in particular caught my eye in relation to my own area of interest. Tom Kilroy says “I saw a Big 4 pitch which laid out what the firm could do for us, but only on the condition that we achieved certain things for ourselves”. There is no real argument in the eDiscovery / eDisclosure world that the solution to the pain, cost and disruption of eDiscovery demands is information governance and, in particular, the development of policies and processes which ensure that a company keeps (and can find) the documents which it ought to keep and disposes of those which it does not need.
Solicitors tend to see eDiscovery in transactional terms – a problem arises and, with varying degrees of skill and knowledge, the lawyers deal with it. Very few seem close enough to their clients as a continuing matter to promote and encourage a proactive approach to heading off the problems for the future. The better of them have post-mortems after a matter closes, but that falls short of Tom Kilroy’s praise for the idea that the adviser can do things for the company “only on condition that we achieved certain things for ourselves”.
Professional relationships are like personal ones – one tends to assume that one’s hopes and expectations are evident and that they will, indeed, be seen as objectively obvious. The occasional article like this helps professional advisers to see themselves as their clients and prospective clients see them. This is a kindly article, in the sense that its author merely suggests ways in which lawyers might do better. Some of the things one reads on Twitter from others in Tom Kilroy’s position – and about named firms, sometimes – would make the lawyers curl up with embarrassment at the mismatch between their own perception of their marketing efforts and that of the hoped-for client. Every firm should at least have someone monitoring the airwaves; even better, why not take part in the discussion?