For today’s General Counsel Corner, I had the pleasure of having a phone interview with Clay Matthews, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for NewMarket Corporation. The question I had for Mr. Matthews was: 

What is your process for selecting outside counsel?" 

His answer was quite interesting, because while some of it was in line with things we’ve heard before, quite a bit of it goes against the grain. He told me: 

When you come in-house, you inherit outside counsel from your predecessors. A lot is legacy.  In addition to that, most of the time, you’ve already had a private practice career, and have friends from outside firms. You know who the competent ones are, and stow away that information."

Not everyone that you like as a person is a suitable attorney, so it becomes a dance. You learn to deflect those you can’t use." 

What criteria is important then? Extreme competence – I need to be comfortable with their legal skills. They don’t need to be someone I could have a beer with.  It’s not easy to find someone like that, because those who are really, really good are also really busy.  And they don’t do a lot of their own rainmaking." 

It’s hard, so I’m always on the lookout for those who can do a better job.  It would help to find multiple people in the same firm, but it is true that we hire lawyers, not law firms."

I found Mr. Matthews’ response fascinating, because we hear so often from clients that "relationships are important" and people want to "do business with those they know, like, and trust." But instead, Mr. Matthews is telling us that it doesn’t matter if he would like to spend time with his counsel; he just wants them to be the best at what they do. 

The lesson I get from this is one I mention often here, and that is that there is no "one size fits all" for clients – where some clients want the relationship to be paramount, others just want the top experts. It’s up to lawyers to work to be nimble in understanding what each client and potential client values, so that they can deliver it to them. 

Mr. Matthews is looking for lawyers who are excellent at their craft, and can show or tell him quickly and succinctly why that is. So ask yourselves – do you know which of your clients/potential clients prefer to be wooed, and which prefer to get down to brass tacks? Can you articulate in thirty seconds or less why a client would want to hire you? 

Thanks again to Mr. Matthews for participating in our General Counsel Corner! 

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.