Creating the right perception

So the clients are coming out of their closets and saying what we've all suspected they thought for a long time. "We want service and value for money, not global reach."

When giants of the stature and international standing of Unilever go on the record with comments such as "I am not interested in a second rate, second division tie-up around the world," those managing partners who spend their days pouring over the atlas should take notice.

No doubt the expansionist firms will say that their levels of service do not suffer just because they open another office, but the clients obviously fear that they do.

There is a clear perception that service is taking second place to global ambition. Clients are not making this up. They are articulating, maybe for the first time, something that has obviously been bothering them for some time. This is clear from the freedom with which senior in-house counsel talked to your reporters.

It is a foolish business that doesn't listen to its customers even if it believes them to be wrong. Firms must address that perception even if they intend to keep on expanding.

Anthony Pearce, Manchester