'Growth conversation' with Van Benthem & Keulen lawyers

About growth of professionals, innovation, and growth in clients and assignments

What is the vision and approach of Van Benthem & Keulen lawyers and notary when it comes to growth? Talked about this Johan Koggink and Marcel Ruygvoorn, Managing Director and Lawyer-Partner at Van Benthem & Keulen, respectively Rob Meijers and Michiel Hoek.

This conversation is part of the series 'Conversation about Growth', an initiative of 4Future where we talk to business service providers about growth: what is their vision, what are the challenges, how do they deal with this, and what are their priorities for the future?

Grow on multiple dimensions

Koggink: “For us, growth is not primarily about numbers of lawyers, that is actually more of a derivative. We define growth in three areas: growth of your professionals, growth in innovation and growth by attracting better clients with better work. We think that this approach to growth also provides much more inspiration than if you just talk about growing the number of lawyers. ”

“With all due respect, many notaries thought so about 15 years ago. And we know what that led to. ”

Growth of professionals

“A professional is motivated because he can learn more, because he is challenged. Of course this is in the legal field, but we also train people on other skills. The client expects a good legal knowledge from a lawyer, but he also needs to understand his business context. For that you have to train lawyers in this. That is why we started with a mini-MBA. Just yesterday we had a CEO from a publicly traded company who spoke to our lawyers about what his world is like. The lawyers also really like that: it is a broadening of what they have learned in their law studies. ”

About Van Benthem & Keulen lawyers and civil-law notaries
Van Benthem & Keulen is an accessible, ambitious, full-service firm with 80 legal professionals in the legal and notarial profession who focus on large and medium-sized companies and institutions, and wealthy individuals. Van Benthem & Keulen is strongly represented in the financial, education, government, retail and healthcare sector. The firm is located in Utrecht and an active member of SCG Legal, an international network of 148 law firms in 82 countries.

Growth through innovations

Koggink: “We have put quite a few innovations on the market in recent years. That started with the service concept 'vanDienst'. This was quite groundbreaking within the legal profession, also because we made it available to non-clients. I noticed that within our partner group there was a willingness to work with such a concept. And that is of course important if you put something on the market, where you do not know exactly how it will turn out in advance.

In fact, innovation is also enforced by the client: they expect you to have things in order from a technological point of view. So you also see that the client - rightly - demands more added value. Offices that do not go along with this will eventually lose the customer, because they cannot follow customer demand. ”

Computable award Van Benthem & Keulen
Van Benthem & Keulen receives Computable award

Ruygvoorn: “We see the importance of keeping up with - and anticipating - technological developments that are going fast in our field. We have to go along with that, if only to ensure that we can organize our work processes as efficiently as possible, so that we can work for the client at the lowest possible cost level. This in turn gives us a competitive advantage that allows us to grow further. Not only by attracting good people who enjoy working at an office that attaches great importance to technology, but also simply because you become more interesting to clients because you are able to work more efficiently thanks to legal technology. ”

While many firms will have thought: lawyers will always be needed, so we just keep doing what we always did, will those customers come back?

Ruygvoorn: “With all due respect, many notaries thought so about 15 years ago. And we know where that led to. LegalTech is a tricky theme for law firms, this is a fairly conservative profession. But LegalTech, you can't get around that anymore. You can already see that with contracts: where you used to be able to charge money for drawing up a 'non-disclosure agreement', it is nowadays a kind of basic document that you are actually supposed to make available. More and more standard contracts are generated by software. And that also means the necessary for your organization: you will have to move to higher qualified work. ”

“With all due respect, many notaries thought so about 15 years ago. And we know what that led to. ”

About LegalTech  

Koggink: “You have LegalTech that you can in fact just buy, such as e-discovery software that is used in fraud investigations or due diligence. These are mature products that you simply have to apply. For us it is much more interesting to look at LegalTech applications that respond directly to a need or pain point of the customer. That is why clients are so enthusiastic about the VBK Transition App, the Dawn Raid Manual and the Litigation Valuator: there is an immediate benefit for them.

We notice that when you introduce innovations, you also grow in the respect you get from the market: growth because clients prefer to work with you, but also growth through pride in your own office; people who say: nice that we are going to work with all those innovations. ”

"You must have someone who is a pioneer and who makes time to create awareness of the importance of LegalTech."

“As an office, we have agreed that we want to be progressive in this, that we want to be at the forefront. And you see that this also inspires people to choose our office: people who are interested in technology, especially in combination with law, enjoy coming to our office. ”

'VBK Transitie App' (Van Benthem & Keulen)
'VBK Transition App'

People are the biggest challenge  

Koggink: “LegalTech is never an end, but a means: it is the people who have to make a difference. The biggest challenge is to bring in the best people and ensure that the best talents stay with your club. So you have to make sure that they find it interesting to work here, that they have enough challenge to develop, that they like to contribute and that they are proud of this office. 

In order to attract good people, we build stringent ties with universities, among other things. What we have been doing for years is different from the classic office presentation. So don't bring in students and say 'Van Benthem & Keulen is good at this and good at it', but really look at: how can we contribute to the competences of those students? We train students who come to us immediately in a whole carousel of skills such as pleading techniques, presentation techniques and drafting skills. Then you add something to those students and they see that we offer a piece of development. Ambitious students will pick up on that. ”

Ruygvoorn: “It is very important that you keep people motivated. You do this by offering permanent training. By offering tailor-made tools and courses that allow them to continue to grow, it remains interesting to continue working for our office in this field.

In addition, it is of course very important that you can let good people do good business. Because people want to deal higher up, deal with more complex matters, teach or perhaps receive a doctorate. It is an intrinsic desire of those people to grow, so we also offer them facilities to develop further. ”

Kantoor Van Benthem & Keulen in Utrecht
Van Benthem & Cologne office in Utrecht

Growth in beautiful clients and assignments

Koggink: “Growth of professionals actually has a connection with growth by beautiful clients where you can do nice assignments: if you get beautiful work from beautiful clients, this is stimulating for your professionals, because they can do more interesting work there. They like that and they can also develop further. ”

"It is very important to introduce non-clients to the content."

“I don't think a prospect will quickly buy an office from a brochure or from a nice website. That must all be well taken care of, but in the end they have to get to know you in terms of content. That is why we introduce prospects to our content. That was also the starting point of 'vanDienst', which is also accessible to non-clients. They can, for example, call a help desk and spar with a partner. This way you not only share knowledge, but also show something of your ability. This gives prospects more confidence in you, so that they approach you earlier for a case. It is very important to introduce non-clients to the content. ”

Ruygvoorn: “Naturally, this can also be done by means of publications or by providing education. Some of our partners regularly give guest lectures, then you show something of yourself. If a client has a problem, it will not primarily go for the slick office or the beautiful appearance; he wants to win that case and to win that case he wants the best lawyer. ”

Koggink: “I think we are very well known among company lawyers. We actually started years ago, when we investigated: what is the need now? Company lawyers said: 'I sometimes have trouble keeping up with my knowledge, I do it ad hoc. I don't always have to hear the theory, but I am interested in current developments. ' Then we started with IURA ACTUA. This is a permanent refresher course for company lawyers. We started with 20-30 corporate lawyers, this year about 600 corporate lawyers registered. Because you gauge the need well, you come up with concepts that are in great need. ”

Ruygvoorn: “Connecting new, beautiful clients to your office also means better things. So it is all interrelated: if you want to grow people, you will also have to grow your client potential to have more and more beautiful files that can keep people happy and continue to offer the challenge they are looking for intellectually. ”

“If you want to grow people, you will also have to grow your client potential.”

Priority for the coming year

Koggink: “The most important growth goal for the coming year - in addition to the growth of professionals, innovation and beautiful clients - is to show our legal ability and the things we do, including exciting things, more externally. So getting more exposure, also in the boardroom. ”

Ruygvoorn: “Sexy business is mainly associated with large Zuidas offices, while we do business that many Zuidas offices lick their fingers at. That is still a challenge: how we show to the market that you can also come here for the major acquisitions, disputes and arbitrations. We did another 100 million + case last year: such cases are not directly associated in the market with an office like ours, but we do! So how to get that right across the board among the decision-makers in the boardroom is still a challenge for us. ”

“Sexy business is mainly associated with large Zuidas offices, while we do business that many Zuidas offices have their fingers on.I t."

Impressie kantoor Van Benthem & Keulen
Impression of the Van Benthem & Cologne office

Where will Van Benthem & Keulen be in 5 years' time?

Ruygvoorn: “Van Benthem & Keulen is already an excellent alternative for the largest offices. For example, look at our Banking & Finance practice group, which already consists of eight lawyers and which will be expanded further in the near future. In 5 years' time, the position of Van Benthem & Keulen in relation to the largest offices will only become stronger. ”

About 'Conversation about Growth'

The growth of business services organizations is on the rise again after a difficult period. Nevertheless, growth remains high on the agenda. For example, because the growth is not going fast enough or not in the desired areas, or because it proves difficult to attract (and retain) good people to man the growth. Or because professionals lack the commercial skills and drive to make the most of growth opportunities. In addition, the sector is faced with many new developments in areas such as technology and revenue models, shortages on the labor market and changing wishes of 'millennials'.

'Conversation about Growth' is an initiative of 4Future in which we talk to directors of accountancy and law firms and consultancies and talk about growth: what is their vision, what are the challenges, how do they deal with this, and what are their priorities for the future?