In-house counsel are generally not bashful when it comes to saying what it is they ticks them off about their outside law firms. There have been many a panel at legal conferences, including marketing related conferences, over the years where corporate counsel have expressed their displeasure with the services provided by outside counsel.

Only recently did I run across an article on’s In-House Counsel entitled “Getting an Earful From GCs” reporting on just such a panel at a seminar sponsored by Georgia’s ICLE and State Bar late last year. What impressed me wasn’t what the in-house counsel had to say (since it’s all been said before), as much as who was saying it. The panelists include top general counsel from Dow Chemical, UPS and Superior Essex.

It is presumed that these companies hire some pretty heavy-hitter law firms. And they still feel compelled to express their pet peeves? If they are not getting the right service from top law firms, how many other firms of all sizes still don’t “get it”? Moreover, smaller companies without their clout are not likely doing any better. Teri McClure of UPS reported that she recently fired a firm after 40 years of working with the company. That’s scary!

So, what were some of the pet peeves that emerged from the session?:

  • Firms need to understand the client’s business and culture (UPS, you may not know, does not have “trucks” but rather “package cars”. I didn’t know that, but I’m sure that isn’t why that firm got fired.),
  • Poor communications (as in being kept informed on the status of matters, and seeking feedback),
  • Slow in providing litigation budget, but quick to request payment (especially at year-end – I’ve always been fascinated with that business model.),
  • Lack of give-and-take on fees (which need to be fair and reasonable).

I’m sure there were other issues raised. And, it seems to me, firms that pay attention to what in-house counsel like and don’t like, and are willing to detail upfront the kind of service they will provide, may just find some terrific legal marketing opportunities out there among companies of all sizes.