Innovation Case Study 1: Levenfeld Pearlstein
Levenfeld Pearlstein is a 75-lawyer firm in Chicago. Its innovative CEO, Angie Hickey, recently shared her insights at the P3 Conference about how the firm has adopted a corporate style Customer Experience culture that sets it apart. Their client focus permeates everything the firm does both internally and externally.
The firm was founded in 1999 in large part to create a different kind of law firm, one that was focused on developing loyal client relationships and producing exceptional client value. There are a number of aspects to the firm’s culture that are distinctive and innovative, and they are embodied in their model “The LP Way™.” Unlike some firms that tout slogans or promote innovative aspects of their client value initiatives without the backing of measurements and frameworks, The LP Way™ actually is a business strategy. It is used as the basis for how the firm attracts, develops and rewards talent and how it ensures consistency, transparency and satisfaction to clients.
Many years ago, firms began developing client service standards, protocols and strategies. An example of a firm that was way out in front on this was Miles & Stockbridge who at the direction of their former visionary CEO and Chairman John Frisch, developed a set of client-focused values, a service pledge, a robust client feedback program and policies, programs and training to indoctrinate all lawyers and staff in exceptional client service practices. While some other firms carried through on their promises, many inadequately delivered on the client service pledges they published on their web sites.
The Levenfeld Pearlstein Client Service Pledge
- Know your client
- No surprises
- Move with speed and quality
- Establish expectations, then beat them
The LP Way™: Five Components
“The LP Way™ ensures we attract and hire talented people, provide them with effective practice groups and strong support systems, and that they adhere to our non-negotiable values.”
Levenfeld Pearlstein walks the walk it talks. Its core values and service pledge permeate every aspect of the way the firm functions and delivers services to its clients. The core components of its LP Way™ business strategy include:
Attract and retain talent. The firm has developed methods to better assess and develop the types of people who reflect the skills and values the firm’s client-focused mission requires. It promotes its values to the external market in order to attract the candidates who most want to join them on this mission. Their performance review of lawyers intentionally excludes billable hour metrics – other skills, behaviors and attitudes are more important.
Lead by example. When new people join the firm, they are indoctrinated into the non-negotiable values of the LP Way™. The firm demands, through carrot and stick, adherence to putting clients first, a commitment to one’s own personal development and responsibility, collaboration and its “no asshole” rule.
Cultivate effective practice groups. Levenfeld Pearlstein’s client-facing services are delivered through the firm’s practice groups. Given their importance, this is where the firm ensures that process improvement and project management happen, that best practices and knowledge are captured and shared across practice groups, that innovation is explored and that business and client relationship plans are executed by the group and individual lawyers.
Align systems. This aspect of firm management is perhaps most important in ensuring that The LP Way™ is required and reinforced. Through governance and succession planning, professional development including business, professional, leadership and personal, promotion and compensation, and the firm’s operations functions, the client-centered values and strategies are developed, executed, improved, monitored, measured and improved. As an example, the firm regularly puts groups of lawyers and professionals through a Legal Lean Sigma programs to train them on process improvement.
Ask for feedback. The firm conducts client feedback interviews and regularly seeks input. But perhaps as importantly, it promotes self-awareness and self-improvement through 360 reviews and an emphasis on lifelong learning. This focus on continuous improvement support innovation and provides a safe place for LP personnel to think creatively about, experiment with and even fail at better ways to service clients.
Transparency Around Pricing
The firm has dedicated a section of its website to the discussion of pricing and its efforts to define and provide value. Included in the pricing section is information about:
- Different types of pricing models and fee structures
- How it scopes projects
- How it manages client expectations
Its billing rates are listed but most significantly, it includes a description of how it determines its billing rates which is not done in lock-step by years of experience or across the board increases.
Innovation in law firms takes many forms but is most effective when it is directed and supported from the top and becomes an integral part of the firm’s culture. At its core, innovation must begin with a single focus on client service, value and needs. This is what Levenfeld Pearlstein perpetuates throughout the firm.