Corporate Hygiene: It's Kind of Like Brushing Your Teeth, But with a Different Kind of Payoff
Let me ask you a question: do you brush your teeth every day? Or just the week before a dental check up?
Imagine if the only time your teeth were brushed was twice a year at the dentist. It wouldn't be a very pleasant visit (not that they ever are, actually). Well, that's the situation too many law firm clients find themselves in when they’re ready for a corporate event or transaction. Right before a financing or annual meeting, everyone rushes around in a mad dash looking for documents and updating capitalization tables. Why? Because the records haven’t been updated or organized since the last mad dash.
But if you're a corporate client at Pierce Atwood, LLP in Portland, Maine, the frenzied scene described above is a long-ago memory. I recently sat down with Chris Howard, the head of the firm’s business practice group. He explained to me that with the firm’s centralized client information management system (CIMS), Corporate Focus, the corporate records for all of their business clients are organized, minute book documents scanned, and capitalization tables up-to-date.
As the largest New England law firm North of Boston, Pierce Atwood has over 1,000 corporate clients that who depend on having their information and documents just one click away when they call. In fact, Chris told me that some of their clients have direct online access to their own information in Corporate Focus on a read-only basis, which eliminates the need for these clients to even contact the firm. This saves the clients legal fees, offers them more flexibility in searching, and of course saves boatloads of time since they can get to their data around the clock.
As Chris bluntly put it, clients don't usually choose a firm because they practice outstanding “corporate hygiene.” But when an important transaction is pending, these clients notice and appreciate the level of service and risk management that Pierce Atwood provides—whether they need it or not. It's just how the firm does business. And it's the right way to do business.
Chris also noted that it's not really a matter of what technology you have at a law firm, because many firms have implemented state-of-the-art systems and applications in recent years. What’s important is how you use this technology for your clients' benefit. Depending on which client you talk to, those benefits might involve faster turnaround times, lower legal costs, or 24/7 access to legal records. But any way you slice it, when clients see this kind of productivity in action, it doesn’t escape their attention.
In fact, Pierce Atwood’s efforts to help clients help themselves—through a firm-wide CIMS—have enhanced its reputation in the legal marketplace. As Chris explained to me, trust, reputation, and client service are what make a law firm successful—and it’s these qualities that lead to satisfied clients telling other companies about their positive experience. Corporate Focus also makes practicing law easier for Pierce Atwood attorneys, because they can spend more time and energy on legal advice and negotiation and less on administrative requirements.
Do many law firms use Corporate Focus or have access to systems like Corporate Focus? Of course. Does it take unusual rigor and tenacity to implement a firm-wide client information management system as Pierce Atwood has done? Absolutely. Do their clients appreciate the benefit when they're ready for their next transaction? You bet. Just ask any of them.
Then ask your corporate practice group: Do you practice corporate hygiene for your clients on a regular basis—or just the week before a major transaction? Ask them which their clients would prefer. Then ask their Board or investors.