Today, we’re bringing you a special guest post from the folks at Legal Gateway, who have identified the top eight mistakes that in-house counsel make when implementing legal technology that prevents it from being successful. In-house lawyers: this one’s for you, and for our outside counsel readers, consider sharing this with your clients and discussing their technology needs, solutions, and strategies with them, and how you may be able to partner with them. This was originally published on Plexus.

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After many years of under-investment in technology, GCs are finally joining the party.  Sadly, many of them are setting themselves up for a hangover.

Our recent research into Legal Transformation suggests that General Counsels will increase investment in technology by 252% in the next two years.  Yet, limited technology competencies will lead most to frustration and failure.
Continue Reading Why Legal Tech does not work: The top 8 mistakes GCs make

iStock_000018170510XSmallIf you’re a regular reader of Zen, you’ll know that I love in-house counsel panels.

During the recent Legal Marketing Association’s Technology Conference, we had one of the best in-house counsel panels I’ve seen. Moderated by Wicker Park Group’s Nat Slavin, the panel consisted of:

Lest we return to the office and tell our lawyers that we needed to change our strategy based on what one panelist said during the session, Nat gave a great disclaimer to start, reminding us that it’s still “one size fits one” when it comes to clients. So I share that with you here as well.

That being said, we do still hear a lot of the same themes and ideas, many of which boil down to the point that you need to know your clients and communicate with them regularly and effectively to find out what works best for them and what it is THEY want. 
Continue Reading “What is Stopping Our Teams From Changing?” In-House Counsel Ask at LMA Tech Conference

iStock_000007887592XSmallMany of us in legal marketing wait with bated breath for the results of the Greentarget “State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey” every year.

Building on Greentarget’s inaugural study in 2010, [it gives us] the latest insights on how corporate general counsel – your clients – are engaging in social media and law firm-generated content.”

We also learn how our “legal marketing peers are evolving their own content and digital strategies to build relationships and fuel business development.”

During LMA’s Technology Conference this year, we were treated to a preview of the survey, which is officially released on November 18th, with Greentarget’s own John Corey. You’ll want to check back on their website on the 18th for the full report (and you can register now to make sure you get a copy on the day it’s released), but we learned some interesting things.
Continue Reading Preview: 2015 State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey

iStock_000011931148SmallFor our latest installment of “General Counsel Corner,” I spoke with the employment counsel for a Fortune 500 company. My question to her was:

Clients apply their own set of metrics for determining quality, value, and success. What are some of the metrics you use when selecting outside counsel?”


Continue Reading General Counsel Corner: What Metrics Do You Apply to Outside Counsel?

For our latest installment, we spoke with a general counsel who works closely with outside counsel.  We wanted to know, 

What is your preference for how a lawyer tries to learn more about you and your business?"

She told us that

In working with outside counsel, I encourage them to learn as much as possible about our business so they have context to give advice. The best lawyers ask thoughtful questions that invite us to give context and details, "Tell me how you would typically . . ."; "how would this scenario arise again, or how has it come up in the past." If the advice we get is not given in context, it will not be very practical."


Continue Reading General Counsel Corner: Getting to Know Your Business

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." 


Continue Reading General Counsel Corner: Selecting Outside Counsel

At this year’s LMA, we were fortunate enough to have not one, but TWO sessions with General Counsel. This one took place at the end of the first day, and included a procurement guy – a first for the LMA. The session was titled "GC Focus: Project Management. Position Your Firm in Alignment With the Unique Challenges Faced by In-house Counsel." 

Panelists included Keith Isgett, the Managing Attorney-General – Global External Legal Relations, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Justin Ergler, Sourcing Group Manager, Legal Services Procurement, GlaxoSmithKline, and Nat Slavin, Founder and Partner of Wicker Park Group, along with Moderator Alicia Brown, Director of Strategic Relationships for Bloomberg Law. 

After their introductions, Isgett kicked it off by saying that he wants to receive the best representation for the best price, and part of the "best representation" is having a good relationship with the law firm. The procurement team is there to make sure that what they’re paying for is what they receive, and that there is value there. Isgett noted that "People are still talking about discounted hourly rates, which means we’re not as far along as I’d like us to be." 


Continue Reading GC Focus – an LMA Annual Conference Recap

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.


Continue Reading General Counsel Panel: Separate from the Pack – a Recap Part II

Another of my all-time favorite conference sessions at LMA is always the client panel.  For me, the panel always makes the investment in the conference worth it, because I can impart what I learn from the GCs there to my lawyers, to help them to understand their own clients better, and that adds value for everyone. 

This year’s client panel didn’t disappoint. It focused on best practices for building and maintaining your law firm’s relationship with in-house counsel and featured Megan Belcher, the VP and Chief Employment Counsel for ConAgra, Kevin Schubert, the Associate General Counsel, Transactions for LV Sands Corporation, Simon Manoucherian, the Assistance General Counsel/Director of Litigation GRIFOLS, and Karen Cottle, Senior Counsel for Sidley Austin and former in-house counsel. The panel was moderated by Inside Counsel magazine. 

The panelists said that they would discuss the role of social media for general counsel, the challenges that they see over the next five years, and the change in inside/outside counsel relationships since 2008.  Since the economic downturn, GCs have changed the way that they evaluate outside counsel, and the process by which trust is built. 


Continue Reading General Counsel Panel: Separate from the Pack – a Recap Part I

During the LMA’s opening session on Wednesday, we were treated to a great client panel on achieving greater collaboration – what you need to know to get a win-win relationship with your clients.  On the panel were Stephen Kaplan, the Senior Vice President & General Counsel for Connextions, Inc., Jeff Novak, the General Counsel for AOL Paid Services, and John Lewis Jr., the Senior Managing Counsel-Litigation for The Coca-Cola Company,

They gave us a lot of incredibly valuable feedback, which I’d like to share with you.  To qualify – at the end of the session, they did say that this wasn’t to be taken as the "rules" for dealing with all general counsel.  The idea is for this to open a dialogue with your clients and get you thinking about how you can better service them.

Main Points from the GC’s

  • Don’t treat all clients the same – that’s like being a therapist and treating all of your patients the same.
  • The GCs were amazed by how infrequently firms will come to them and ask how they are measured internally and what success looks like for them – doing this can differentiate you.
  • It’s your job as lawyers to make your clients look good.
  • Find un-met needs for your clients – this is a different value proposition than that offered by your competitors
  • Realization rates can go up when you can help the in-house counsel meet their legal spending budget.
  • Client service should be very personal, tailored to the individual just as much as the institution.
  • Firms that know the secret to cost containment in their own firms should be able to help General Counsel apply those principles in their department.
  • When a client comes to your firm and you can divine that they’re in need, that’s an opportunity for the firm to embed a partnership.
  • Meeting their needs transcends the vendor relationship and makes you a partner.
  • Learn how to self-select – you can’t be all things to all people.  It’s difficult to discern any self-selection from the pitches that they get.  One of them recently got a pitch from a company that was obviously conflicted and should have self-selected.
  • There is lots of buzz around AFA’s – but not everyone is positioned to do this. A value relationship is one where you have value to deliver.


Continue Reading Lawyers – We Are Still Missing the Boat with Clients