A panel of general counsel at the September meeting of Legal Marketing Association’s Metro Philadelphia Chapter told the audience that they REALLY crave better communications and efficiency from outside counsel.

As reported on Law.com’s Small Firm Business by reporter Zack Needles, the GCs:

 

Don’t Like:

  • “centralized attorney structure” (where client must go through a senior lawyer not working on the matter, rather than just dealing directly with lawyers who are);
  • Relationship partner being too involved (thus, creating less efficiency in handling their matter);
  • Glossy advertisements, “trumpeting “firm accomplishments, which have “little bearing on (the) opinion of a firm”;
  • Formal RFPs (although apparently one or more have used them), and especially where firm sends big guns (who won’t be working on matter) to the presentation; and
  • The firm adding new attorneys to a matter, and finding out about it on the bill.

Do Like:

  • High-level partners staffing a matter properly, but being available to answer “a particular question”;
  • “(W)illingness and ability to build trusting relationships”;
  • Web sites with greater emphasis on qualifications and accomplishments of individual lawyers, rather than the law firm;
  • E-mail alerts (vs. chatty newsletters) with “substantive law updates” relevant to their company (“No. 1 marketing tool” according to one GC);
  • Keeping GC informed of what’s going on by providing regular status updates; and
  • “Detailed progress updates” on bills (vs. just work effort).

It is no surprise that in-house counsel what better communications and efficiencies from their outside counsel; and it behooves law firms to do a better job of both, particularly in a down economy.

  • As someone who works a great deal with clients of law firms, it’s not just in-house counsel who have these priorities. Lack of communication about progress, staffing and fees are the prime complaints of clients large and small, and yet are matters which can so easily be rectified by law firms. For these reasons, Australian governments have now introduced somewhat onerous legislation in an effort to make lawyers communicate. The penalty if they don’t, is a reduction in fees.