An article (available to Association of Corporate Counsel members) by Susan Jacobsen that appears in the April 2008 issue of ACC’s “Hands On” addresses some “Lessons for Law Firms” as a result of a GC panel discussion at the 15th Annual Marketing Partner Forum this past January.

Fred Krebs, the president of ACC, was moderator of the panel and cited results from the 2007 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey, specifically

“…noting that half of the survey respondents terminated relationship with some of their outside counsel during the prior year, citing failure to perform according to client expectations, high costs, and poor work product or results.”

Krebs then asked the three panelists (GCs from General Electric Company, Royal Bank of Canada, and Hasbro, Inc.) to address a number of topics relating to outside law firms, including communications, cross-selling (two examples cited turned out to be disasters), conflicts, marketing activities, knowing the client’s business, satisfaction interviews, use of websites, views of $180,000 starting salaries, and loaning associates to clients.

The lessons learned (or should be) that particularly stood out for me relating to marketing and business development include:

  • Constantly communicate with your clients (about their matters, problems, etc.),
  • Learn all about their business (“More than anything,…the firms that stand out are the ones that know our business,” according to one GC),
  • Seek client interviews to obtain feedback (all three GCs were in favor of doing this), and
  • Higher associate salaries are not favored (“…the rise in associate salaries in the larger firms provided a good opportunity for smaller, regional firms to be positioned for the business”, according to Jacobsen).

Main Lesson: Don’t be one of the law firms that clients show the door. 

For Survey’s table of contents and benchmarks…

Here is the Survey Table of Contents and Survey Benchmarks