In yesterday’s post, we learned that building relationships is still of primary importance to clients – and some of the ways to do this including figuring out what benefits the client the most, and focusing on what business solutions will make them look good.
The panelists agreed that the role of their lawyers needs to be that of strategic partners, and for their part, they need to inform outside counsel about what they need. But outside counsel can also be proactive to learn more about their clients. The panelists suggested that attorneys read company filings and public documents before they meet with them. They emphasized that outside counsel should understand their customer before asking them to be their customer. Post-matter debriefings, at no cost, are also helpful.
In the theme of relationship building, referrals among in-house counsel are still paramount as well. GCs are often actively promoting their outside counsel to other in-house counsel. As Cottle said "There is no substitute for the personal relationship with your go-to outside lawyer." The panelists agreed that these relationships aren’t going to come from social media, so it’s key to take any online relationships offline.
The panelists then moved on to discuss training young lawyers. They felt that many firms are missing a key element – that of focusing on leadership among associates and young partners. It can’t be all about the work for lawyers – it has to also be about leadership. When more leadership opportunities are developed with outside counsel for young attorneys, this can be very powerful and a big selling point for clients.
Another must-do for outside counsel? Pay attention to your client’s billing guidelines – they’re written for a reason. Equally important is attorney review of pre-bills. The GCs lamented that there’s nothing more frustrating than having to fix bills that are wrong. In general, the panelists felt that their outside counsel should try to understand the company’s business objectives, including their financials and accounting calendar, and should run their billing systems from the point of view of the GC, not the partner.
The last key takeaway from the session came from Shubert, who said that lawyers shouldn’t assume that the most efficient option is to email their clients. Often several hours of back and forth emails can be saved with a quick phone call, and GCs would prefer this.
What do you think? Are your firms abiding by these suggestions from in-house counsel?