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What Do General Counsel Want?

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

A panel of in-house counsel at a recent meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association discussed the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How’s of hiring outside counsel. Their discussion was summarized by Janet Ellen Raasch in an article that appears on JDSupra.

What struck me was how we have heard it all before. Nothing new. Period.

Yet, one picks up that too many law firms still don’t get it apparently, since in-house counsel continue to mention what makes them unhappy about their outside counsel.

So, I guess it is worth repeating some of their “Likes” and “Don’t Likes”:


  • Value received that matches the fees and costs charged;
  • Inclusion and diversity compliance (especially among those firms serving Fortune 500 companies and government entities);
  • Understanding budget constraints on routine non bet-the-company matters;
  • Keeping matters in-house, except where expertise isn’t present internally;
  • Offering free CLE seminars to in-house lawyers;


  • Lack of knowledge by outside lawyers about their business and industry;
  • Too little meaningful information online (which panel concurred is replacing the “legal guides and directories”) about a lawyer’s credentials and experience that relates to their needs;
  • Being taken for granted once firm lands the work; and
  • Lack of responsiveness.

One of the general counsel summed up quite succinctly what general counsel want from outside counsel:

“Legal expertise is the bare minimum. We want outside counsel who also respect our budgets, deadlines and communication styles. We want outside counsel who know our businesses. We want outside counsel, in short, who define their success as our success.”

  • Hello Tom
    I think that it is not possible to make those points too often.
    When debriefing in-house counsel after successful and unsuccessful tenders it almost always includes these issues.
    Other likes that I have come across frequently are:
    * going the extra mile,
    * adding value through real undertstanding and thought leadership in their industry
    * a commercial approach
    Making them feel valued, rather than taken for granted is so important. Opportunities often arise, for new firms when a client feels that they are no longer a priority for their incumbent adviser.