MT: Absolutely, and that’s one of the things that’s been so refreshing and encouraging about working with Perkins, is that approach, embodied in every aspect of the culture that you have in and in everyone that we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Just turning back to clients for a second, we talked about a couple of other things. Is there anything else that’s come up from some of your clients that have been notes of concern about working with a flexible pool rather than taking a Perkins associate or partner?
GV: The instinct is, “Hold on, I thought you were a law firm with 1200 people. Why can’t you find just one for me that we can work with?” Our clients who have worked in the law firm environment understand it’s tough to have people sitting on the sidelines. The greatest lawyers we have are the busiest lawyers we have. It’s tough to find new opportunities that are full-time opportunities for our better lawyers. There are many terrible things about the pandemic, but one positive thing is that clients are more and more likely to understand that the scale solution that we’ve developed with Elevate is a really great idea. And it allows them to get the best of both worlds. They can scale up. They can say, “I need someone in our offices or our virtual offices in a week,” and we can say yes. At the same time, they get a law firm like us with a long relationship with those clients, supervise those lawyers, and make sure that they fit in seamlessly with the client but do good work. So I think it’s less and less. Two years ago, it would have been harder to convince clients. I think now, more and more, what we see, is they expect it.
MT: They’re facing the same challenges. They’re facing challenges on permanent headcounts, but yet, the business is beginning to pick up. They need to be able to respond to that cost-effectively. I think this is a solution that provides them with that, rather than, perhaps, ten years ago, they have been looking at taking two of your associates on the billable hour for 50 hours a week, for a couple of weeks at a time. That’s not a cost-effective way of being able to do that.
GV: I’ve had some interesting experiences where the client will specifically say, “I don’t want one of your associates because I don’t want to distract the associates that are already working with us. We want an additional team member to supplement that associate.” That’s why I like the relationship because it allows us to keep the associates on the team and add to the team.
MT: Just going back to how you implemented this change, how did you approach that on an office-by-office basis, on a client-by-client basis, what have you found to be the best way of being able to roll this change out?
GV: Well, the first thing we needed was management committee buy-in. It needed to be owned and supported and advocated by our leadership, so that was step one. Step two was to take a two-part approach; one is to address particular client leads because we identified a number of clients that were more likely to take advantage of this solution, so we work with specific client leads and the practice group leaders. As a law firm, we are practice group-driven, and the practice group leaders help decide most of the hiring and staffing, so we needed each practice group leader to support this. So it’s through two different approaches after we got management buy-in.
MT: The best messaging is messaging seven times, those kinds of truisms. Is that something that you found to be true in the rollout and the communication that you have to keep reminding people that this is available to them and those are the benefits?
GV: Absolutely. We’re very busy. Our email boxes are cluttered. So yes, we need to continue to remind the various leaders within the firm and the client leads, and the practice group leaders in many different ways. We have webinars, and we have individual meetings, one-on-ones, to remind them we are there for their practice group meetings or their office meaning. So we try to do it in as many ways to as many people as we can, but it also allows us to give them an update each time. Our relationship continues to grow. Things change every day. We’re learning from the mistakes we make, repeating successes. The following month will be different from the prior month, and we owe it to my partners to tell them about that. It’s less about being repetitive and saying the same thing over and over. It’s just giving them weekly, monthly updates on how this is improved. And every month, we have more success stories to tell, which makes people much more comfortable.
MT: As with many changes at law firms, it’s those stories of success that are some of the most compelling ways of being able to incent behavioural change, being able to talk about a particular client, a particular situation, about how this benefited that situation. Have there been any surprises? Many of the things we’ve talked about, but perhaps challenges you or I might have looked ahead in the beginning and said, “These are some of the things we might face.” Anything surprising in the way that’s occurred during the rollout?
GV: Not really, and the reason is we had a great team that worked with me on developing this process. We did a pretty good job of making sure we identified all of the challenges that we would face to alert our leadership and let them know what this path is going to look like so that we manage their expectations. I guess it’s not a surprise, but it continues to be a struggle convincing certain lawyers that the lawyers within the flex pool will be great and will do a great job and with not as much hand-holding as they think, and that they’ll be successful with each client, or even with us. However, the number of partners with those visceral reactions keeps going down, and the number of lawyers who advocate for this keeps going up, and I think that is the real success. I agree with you; it’s all about storytelling. I’m a trial lawyer. It’s all about the storytelling, putting together the story, articulating it, framing it well, and explaining to people that our solution can meet their challenge, and that is a success.
MT: Well, that’s fantastic. Geoff, thank you so much for spending time with us today talking about both the challenges, the rollout, some of the things that we’ve worked to overcome. This will be the first of a two-part podcast, and when we come back, we can, perhaps, talk about some of those particular stories and the success that together, we’ve been able to affect working with your partners’ team and your clients.
GV: I’ll look forward to that, and I appreciate this opportunity. It’s good to chat.
MT: Thank you.