Get Amazing Stories

Get great contents delivered straight to your inbox everyday, just a click away, Sign Up Now
Email address
Secure and Spam free...
Receive Anita Turner's Strategy Tips

Law Firm Insights

What we learned from in-house counsel at 32 AL companies

By June 24, 2016 2 Comments

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the business of law so we can better advise our law firm clients and understand trends in the industry, my partner, Joe, and I surveyed general counsels and senior in-house lawyers located in Alabama about elements of their interactions with the law firms that assist them. After the survey results were in and analyzed, we met with ten of the 32 respondents in person to get further feedback from them on the survey questions. What we learned was invaluable – hopefully to our clients but also to us as service providers.

The responses to two questions were the most telling.  First, we asked what factors contribute most to not rehiring outside counsel?  Very few said that a key lawyer’s departure from their chosen outside firm would be reason enough to not rehire the firm.  Surprisingly, expense was also rated as not as important.  Rather, poor service and poor advice were the primary reasons for choosing new counsel.

Given this information, we asked GCs in our interviews if their outside counsel checked in with them regularly or surveyed them to determine if they were getting good service and advice from the law firm.  They said “rarely”.  A 2012 ALM survey echoed this response, finding that only 56% of law firm respondents reported that their firm has a plan in place to measure, track and build client satisfaction and loyalty.

The GCs we met with said they would welcome genuine inquiries from their law firms as to how matters and relationships were going.  They were less interested in social lunch or dinners with outside counsel, not because they did not value those relationship, but their time was scarce and most would prefer to spend spare time on family or other personal interests.  Rather, they said a well-thought out discussion on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities would be ideal.
They also said they would be very receptive to (but seldom received) inquiries from outside counsel as to how outside counsel could help them solve their business problems or as to whether there were other areas in which the law firms could assist the GCs.  For instance, one GC suggested that outside counsel provide video learning modules in their practice areas for the company’s on-line employee university – gratis.

Participant Profile by Company Size

Secondly, in what turned out to be a natural follow on to this customer satisfaction discussion, we asked does your law firm understand your business?  requesting responses on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “completely”.  The average response was 6.5.
A 2012 ALM survey found similarly that 78% of law firms could not honestly say that their firm leaders were “extremely knowledgeable” about their top 20 clients’ businesses.  Again, the GCs said this understanding could be easily increased with regular non-billable communication between GCs and outside counsel.

To this end, in an effort to better understand their clients, one major SE law firm reduced their in-house continuing education budget and used the savings to pay their lawyers to go out and spend time with their clients, learning about their businesses.  Fenwick & West provides monetary rewards to its attorneys for individual investments in learning new skills or pursuing innovations that can produce value for its clients.

Joe and I left these discussions asking ourselves whether we focused enough on understanding our clients’ businesses as well as measuring and improving client satisfaction.  It quickly became apparent to us that what we were hearing was not limited to law firms, or even professional service firms but instead all companies.  In a world where communication is via voicemail, email, texting and emojis, it is too easy to overlook the most important thing – one on one personal communication with clients to understand where they are and where they want to go.

We have put a plan in place to make sure we focus on understanding our clients and their needs and we have met with many of our law firm and other clients to share more of what we learned.  We would be happy to share more with you and your firm or company.  Please reach out!

Join the discussion 2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Weekly Real Estate Insights

Clear, simple, insights on creative office space.
Email address
Secure and Spam free...