Our question to Ms. Rao was:
What is your process for selecting outside counsel?"
She let us know that:
There are many ways that you can select outside counsel but personal relationships and connections are most significant. Additionally, showing expertise as a subject matter expert in a particular area by writing articles and client alerts are helpful. Once engaged in a matter, regular communication updates are a must. It is very off-putting if you find out after the fact that motion was filed and you were not alerted."
Ms. Rao’s response is something that we’ve heard a number of times – "personal relationships and connections are most significant." But she further expands that, suggesting, as we would expect, expertise is important – and showing that expertise through articles and client alerts is helpful.
It’s not just enough to be excellent at your area of practice – you also have to find a way to communicate that excellence. Take your expertise, and share it – write one piece, and then repurpose the heck out of it:
- Pitch an article to media outlets in your area of practice.
- Use the salient points to share with clients in a client alert.
- Include it on your blog – maybe even break it up.
- Offer to expand on it during an industry conference.
And so on – take your expertise, and make it work for you.
One of Ms. Rao’s most important points here though is about keeping in touch with your clients – "regular communication updates are a must." We hear this time and time again from clients – they are not hearing from their attorneys.
Imagine for a moment that you were having your home remodeled, and you were living somewhere else for the duration. Let’s say your contractor is great – he’s got tons of positive reviews, and you’ve seen some of his work, and it’s flawless.
But a month goes by, and then two. And you haven’t heard from him. Not a word about how things are going, whether there have been any surprises that might cost you more money, or even an estimate on when you’re going to be able to get back in your house.
There’s no way you’d accept that – you’d feel too vulnerable, and wonder what you were paying him for.
Then, imagine the opposite – the contractor calls you weekly, even when things are going smoothly. He lets you know about how he’s progressing: the kitchen cabinets are in, but the appliances will be another week. All of the electrical has been completed, and the inspectors have been by to approve it. They found that there was some rot in the floorboards of the dining room, so that will cost some additional funds, but it will be taken care of.
In that case, you’d have much more confidence in him, in his work product. You’d trust him, and in the end, you’d be more likely to invite him back for future work, and to recommend him to friends looking for a contractor.
It’s the same for lawyers and their clients – clients want to know what’s happening, how things are progressing. It’s not their home we’re talking about, but it IS their career. They have to provide updates to their company, and however you can help to make them look good, this is the time to do it – it’s not enough to be excellent at your area of practice; you also have to be excellent at managing your clients.
A big thank you to Ms. Rao for her participation in our General Counsel Corner!