Posted by: johnocunningham | August 22, 2014

Three Social Media Tools for Promoting Your Content

Among journalists and bloggers, I am seeing and hearing a lot of good reviews on three social media tools for expanding influence and outreach, and promoting good content. I have no affiliation of any kind with any of these tools, but the “buzz” about them has inspired me to learn more and share what I know so far.

1. “Buffer” at BufferApp.com is a tool that can be used for managing content releases through multiple social media accounts at one time. It also facilitates statistical analysis of how your content posts are performing.

2. “Buzzstream” at Buzzstream.com is a tool for link-building and relationship building with influencers, such as PR/media pros. You can research who key influencers are in any field, track your touch points (or those of your entire team) with those influencers, build dossiers on influencers in your scope of outreach, and much more.

3. “Muckrack” at Muckrack.com is a tool for those who want to reach journalists and bloggers, as well as journalists and bloggers who want to build a portfolio of their work so that they can be reached by more sources and promoters. You can get instant alerts when journalists or bloggers cite or share your content, you can search for journalists/bloggers covering your professional specialty, you can pitch directly to targets, and more.

These are just three of many fast-growing social media services that can be useful for content promotion. PR pros and in-house communications specialists need to be mastering these kinds of tools now for faster, more effective outreach with better performance analysis and outcomes.

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 15, 2014

Three Tips on How NOT to Sell a Service

Sometimes, the best lessons on how to do something are illustrated most poignantly by examples of how NOT to do it.

Remember the cable customer who simply wanted to terminate his service, and could not get it done? The service rep kept trying to “sell” the customer on renewal when the customer was clearly disinterested. If you have not heard the conversation, you can sample the 8-minute fiasco by clicking on this link.

To be fair, there are many cable/telecom companies other than the one mentioned in the video link that employ people who use overaggressive, obnoxious sales tactics and pay little attention to customers’ expressed desires.

That is one reason why people are racing to “unplug” from overpriced, bundled cable services by converting to free digital TV, cell phones vs. land lines, and mobile broadband for Internet, such as that provided by NetZero.

My own experiences with the sales team for my Internet/phone provider (not the provider mentioned in the link) have inspired me to start looking for these options as well. I already have free TV, and I purchase only the “double-play” service of Internet and phone from my carrier. But I had to purchase a two-year contract to get these services renewed at a reasonable price, and the hoops I jumped through to do it are ridiculous.

A few weeks ago, a sales rep called me, ostensibly to help me find the best opportunity to save money on the services I want. She then relentlessly hammered me on the idea of converting my old double play package to a new triple play package at a higher rate. I had to repeatedly disclaim my interest, and threaten to terminate my service before I could get her to understand that all I wanted was to renew my old double play package at a decent rate. She finally relented, acknowledging that she had no ability to help me renew, but could arrange for me to speak with someone who could do that for me.

Once I got to speak with someone who could actually help me accomplish my goal, I had a fun time trying to pin them down on the actual costs, including taxes and other fees, for my renewal. They agreed to send to me a summary in writing of my renewal costs, and so it came in my email inbox a few days later, showing that I would pay $91.16 per month starting with my “next” bill. That is what I agreed to pay.

But when my next bill arrived, it showed a charge of $106.80. This necessitated another unpleasant experience with yet another service rep, who had a convoluted way of explaining to me that my renewal was not “in time” to get the double play rate, so I would not see that rate until the following monthly bill. When I asked her to tell me what that bill would be, she totaled it up and informed me it would be $96.80, which is more than $60 a year over the written, quoted renewal price.

Since my time is worth more than $60 an hour, I decided not to spend one more hour arguing about this, or trying to locate a service-minded person at a multi-billion dollar corporate entity to resolve the issue.

Nonetheless, within two days they contacted me again. I thought perhaps to apologize for the confusion, but no, they wanted to SELL me a triple-play package once again. I informed the sales rep that I already renewed my double-play, and that I have NO interest in cable TV, and told her that I have asked company reps before to take me off of the triple-play calling list (which never happens).

So, here are my practical tips on how NOT to sell a service:

1. Do NOT hire sales reps to annoy people on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Most of us don’t mind an occasional sales pitch. NOBODY I know wants to hear one dozens of times a year, especially from a provider that never asks how they can improve on the service or sales they provide already.

2. Do NOT train sales reps to be relentless in their conversational approach. In sales and in dating, “No means no.” At some point, I truly expect cable customers to seek out restraining orders to stop the sales stalkers from calling, mailing, e-mailing and even arriving at the front door to pitch more sales.

3. Do NOT set up billing cycles that don’t match for all of your services. If the customer pays one monthly fee for all services, but the service dates run from different monthly dates for each bundled service, the ultimate renewal and/or termination process is a nightmare to track (of course, that is not a problem if you want it that way so that people get frustrated, give up, and pay whatever you want to charge them).

And here is one free “DO” tip: Do train people to actually listen to the customer, find out what they want, and then just deliver it to them in the simplest, most transparent way possible. If you do that, customers will be eager to renew, instead of looking for every possible alternative to your services. The cable companies have had very little competition for a long time, and they have acted like it. Now, customers are looking for the shovels needed to bury them, once and for all.

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | August 12, 2014

Client Search for Value Takes M&A Work to Smaller Law Firms

It was not so long ago that the largest law firms in the country were the default choice for merger and acquisition work that typically rakes in $43,000 to $272,000 per transaction (figures cited by CounselLink.com).

But The Wall Street Journal reported on Tue. Aug. 5 that 2d tier law firms (with 501 to 750 lawyers) now top the charts with 37 percent of all M&A legal revenue. The Leviathan firms with more than 750 lawyers have dropped their share to just 30 percent, and the regional and local firms of fewer than 500 lawyers now account for 33 percent of revenue (which is 3 percent more than the top tier firms).

Similarly, smaller “mid-sized” firms of 250 to 500 lawyers have nearly doubled their market share of “big ticket litigation” from 2009 to 2013, according to the Journal.

What is behind this trend?

I think it is the persistent and growing search for value. The emphasis, even on “bet the company” matters, is no longer just on results. It is about results at a competitive price.

Thus, law firms need to sharpen their marketing communications, demonstrating to clients and prospects how they are delivering value, as well as results. Firms and individual lawyers need to show how they are using process improvement, project management skills, selected technologies and better training and collaboration to deliver faster, less expensive and higher quality results.

Just saying “we’re the best” does not cut it any more. You have to prove what you promise. Showing how you have cut your average transaction costs, your typical production times and your overall budgets for everything from commoditized work to big-ticket litigation and large-scale transactions is critical.

Tracking and communicating the data is a difference maker for any law firm willing to do it. Corporations do it all the time. Law firms – some – are just now getting it.

This is my 20th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I often peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

For the month of June 2014, I have chosen to highlight a pair of related blog posts. One is by Tom Kane of Kane Consulting, entitled “Who Gives a Darn If Clients Are Satisfied?”

The other post is by Erik Mazzone on his Law Practice Matters blog, entitled, “Why Your Firm Should Begin Tracking Client Satisfaction Today.”

Mazzone’s post includes a link to a publication and data from Beaton Research and Consulting, demonstrating that client satisfaction measures are early and leading indicators of where your firm is headed, up or down.

Kane’s post also cites an online survey performed by the Remsen Group and Sterling Strategies, revealing that 91 percent of law firm leaders responded that they have “limited or no measures of client satisfaction.” That number is a bit high compared to other reported numbers on more scientific surveys, but those surveys too reveal that only about half of law firms with at least 50 lawyers are doing client surveys of any kind.

This is stunning when you consider that every prized corporate client that every law firm is chasing probably surveys their customers and/or clients AT LEAST annually, if not more often. I worked in-house with three different companies that all surveyed their customers multiple times per year. The management teams in those companies, as in most companies, were extremely concerned with “customer satisfaction measures” all of the time. They were also concerned with what was causing customer satisfaction or defection levels to rise or fall.

As a result, we asked our customers’ questions, such as: Which of our products (or services) do you like better than our competitors? What are we doing better than our competitors? What are we doing not as well as competitors? What products or services are missing from our offerings? How can we improve our service?

The fact that so many law firms are not measuring client satisfaction, much less searching for root causes of client satisfaction measurements, represents a sorry state for the profession, but an amazing opportunity for those firms that want to start acting like their prized corporate clients and imitating their success.

Posted by: johnocunningham | July 30, 2014

Why Attorneys Hate Marketing and What You Can Do About It (update)

I have noticed in recent months that an article I wrote almost exactly two years ago has continued to receive lots of hits and reads online – the article being entitled, “Why Attorneys Hate Marketing and What You Can Do About It.”

Since this piece continues to attract readers, I thought I should provide an update to it, adding one more reason that some lawyers are not enthusiastically enrolling in marketing efforts, despite the fact that they need to do so for survival in an increasingly competitive world.

I am not sure how I overlooked this glaring omission from my first summary, but it can be summarized in one phrase: “Internal Politics.” This is something I hear about only in whispers from people who would never go on the record, but the whispers are prevalent and problematic for law firms.

The problem seems to be a matter of turf and sometimes seniority. Some lawyers don’t like marketing efforts – by OTHERS – because those efforts, if successful, will result in less open turf for hunting down origination fees. Other lawyers, those who are more conflict-averse, don’t want to bump heads with someone over origination credits for new business with a large corporate client that numerous people have contacted over the years. They just don’t want to battle their own teammates.

“I met that contact last year at a conference, and I had him first. I can’t believe you did not tell me you were going after him. I got him primed, I gave him all the info about our firm, and I expect to get the credit. You can’t just go walking all over the place, handing out business cards.” That is about the way that a hypothetical “turf” lecture from an established partner might go.

Associates, in particular, get mixed messages about marketing. On the one hand, the firm’s ostensible leaders – such as the managing partner and the CMO – will encourage all lawyers to be more active in business development and marketing efforts. But on the other hand, some power partners who never have enough turf to pee on will tell those junior lawyers: “You need to focus on serving clients and being the best lawyer you can be at this stage of your career. Business development is something you can focus on when you are a partner.”

Those admonishing senior lawyers purport to be concerned about “learning the craft” but what they are really concerned about is more competition from within. What associates are not told, but should understand is that there are only a few ways to make partner, and developing a book of business is one of them. Partnership is conferred on fewer individuals over time, and that makes it harder and harder to make partner just “by doing good work.”

There are lots of grunts out there who can work long hours, and there is always a next generation that will work harder and put in longer hours. People who make partner will generally make it for economic reasons – they have their own book of business, or they are so loved by clients that they could walk away with them, or their rich uncles sit on the boards of big companies or run the government agencies that regulate corporate clients.

Thus, lawyers have yet another reason to hate marketing, but a more compelling reason to embrace it – survival.

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | July 18, 2014

Best Blog Posts of June: Using Google Analytics

This is my 20th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I often peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

For the month of June 2014, I have chosen to highlight a blog post by Stephen Fairley at the Rainmaker Blog entitled, “Ten Google Analytics Categories You Need to Review to Judge Your Website’s Performance.”

Fairley’s blog is chock full of useful information on all kinds of topics, and the post I highlighted is my favorite for the month of June because it lays out very simply and succinctly the 10 ways in which you can use a FREE tool – Google Analytics – to find out:

  • who is searching for you;
  • where they are from;
  • what pages they are viewing;
  • how much time they are spending on different pages or posts; and
  • what kind of traffic is being driven to your site via your social media channels.

Very practical and useful info you can find and sort through for free!

My runner-up post of the month came from the “Patrick on Pricing” blog, which offered up some interesting data on trends in law firm pricing. Among the interesting data points:

  • more than 40 percent of firms now get more than 10 percent of their revenue from alternative fee arrangements
  • 100 percent of firms are deriving measurable percentages of revenue from AFAs
  • about 1/4 of revenue in firms with less than 250 lawyers comes from some form of “discounted” billing (apparently firms find it easier to discount than to figure out a fair fixed fee that would be non-discounted)
  • about 1/3 of revenue in firms with more than 250 lawyers comes from some form of “discounted” billing (suggesting that larger firms are under even more pressure to discount their rates than smaller firms)

Check out Patrick on Pricing if you are interested in pricing trends and analysis – good stuff.

 

 

When I read the Texas Bar Association’s Ethics Opinion no. 642, as issued by the Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar of Texas, I was stunned. This ruling is bizarre and illogical even when viewed through the lens of its own rationale.

The opinion, for those who don’t know, stated that “under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, a Texas law firm may not use ‘officer’… in the job titles for non-lawyer employees of the firm.” Thus, firms in Texas cannot confer on employees the title of chief marketing officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or chief information technology officer, despite the fact that these titles have been awarded to high-caliber professionals in law firms around the country and the world, along with significant compensation packages necessary to recruit the very best and brightest to manage law firm business functions (or perhaps I should say “non-lawyer” functions).

According to the Ethics Committee, “designating these employees  as ‘officers’ or ‘principals’ would be misleading and thus violate Rule 7.02(a).” That rule provides that “a lawyer shall not make or sponsor false or misleading communication about the qualifications or the services of any lawyer or firm.”

REALLY? So it is misleading to give a person an “officer” title for a non-lawyer function, such as the accounting, finance, marketing or technology management functions? Who exactly is being misled and how? The opinion does not answer this question, and apparently presumes that the reasoning is obvious.

Well, excuse me, but I practiced law for a long time, for more than a decade in Texas, and I was the chief legal officer of a publicly held company, and I don’t get it.

How is a client or member of the general public deceived when a law firm hires a top-notch technology pro and gives him or her the title of “Chief Tech Officer?”

In fact, Rule 1.1 of the model rules of ethics, as drafted by the American Bar Association, mandates that a lawyer must keep current with changes in practice, including “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” How exactly does a sophisticated law firm do that without the help of one of those “non-lawyer” IT experts who command six-figure salaries and “chief technology officer” titles everywhere in the world (except in Texas).

Any law firm that keeps current on technology would understand that a “non-lawyer” expert is essential to manage and control the technology operations of the firm. That is relevant to the test articulated by the TX Ethics Committee – the officer title, to avoid being misleading, must be given to someone who “controls operations of the law firm.” Well, I am pretty certain that the IT officer should be in “control” of the technology function because it would be one hell of a mess if the lawyers were in charge.

In fact, there are literally thousands of technology products available to meet a firm’s needs for IT security, IT management, e-discovery, document management, billing, public database searching, big data analysis and other functions essential to delivering a cost-effective and high quality legal solution to client problems. Without a “chief technology officer” to choose the right solutions, and to manage and integrate all of those solutions, the firm would be operating in the Stone Age (as some firms do). Ditto for the difficult tasks associated with management of complex financial and accounting, human resources or marketing functions for a sophisticated firm.

I see NOTHING misleading about giving an officer title to a “non-lawyer” for management of a “non-lawyer” function, but I do see something inherently misleading and unjust about law firms offering to serve clients with anything less than current, state of the art business functions that make justice affordable and efficient.

I also find it misleading to allow law firms to do what many do every day – house lawyers together under one firm name (yes, it’s called a “brand”) and assert that they all adhere to certain standards of professionalism, quality, and service delivery that demonstrate care and concern for clients when in fact those law firms have no internal standards for service delivery, process management, process improvement, technology management, efficiency or any other business management function that would insure that clients get consistent, reliable, and cost-effective service at rates that don’t screw them. THAT would be misleading, and yet it is happening in many law firms, including law firms in Texas, every single day.

This ethics opinion simply makes no sense to me, as applied to titles conferred on essential professional specialists who help to insure that clients actually get an affordable, efficient and user-friendly result when they seek legal services. It is especially surprising to me because I have always found the Texas Bar to be serious about keeping up with the times, and concerned about affordable and efficient justice for clients in a profession that is pricing itself out of existence.

This opinion is not what I have come to expect from the Texas Bar. It sounds like it came from Ivory-tower oracles with no connection to the real world. These are the kind of people who think that “non-lawyer” is a word, that the caste of people without law degrees must not be allowed to control even a business function in firm operations, and that the world will go to hell if a “non-lawyer” untouchable were to get – GASP – a “title” that could possibly imply that lawyers are giving up a shred of “control.” Perhaps control is really what this all about – these lawyers can feel themselves losing control in a fast-changing world, and they can’t cope with it.

At the LMA-New England chapter event on May 15, a panel of five in-house legal leaders told the audience what they think about dozens of issues relating to legal marketing and legal service.

The panel included: Kathleen Burke, V.P. and General Counsel for MKS Instruments, Inc.; Jonathan Feltner, Chief Trial Counsel for the MBTA; Julie McCarthy, Executive Director and Associate General Counsel for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Leonard Slap, General Counsel for Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc.; and Mark Wong, General Counsel for Acronis.

Five out of five, or 100 percent of the panelists agreed that:

1. They don’t care about the length of a lawyer profile on firm websites, as long as they can find the information that is relevant to them.

2. They don’t care about the length of a practice group description on a website, as long as they can find the information that is relevant to them.

3. They all are receptive to their legal providers asking, “How are we doing and how can we improve?”

4. They all prefer in-person surveys on legal service rather than getting a written form to fill out.

5. They all read one or more law firm newsletters or client alerts regularly.

6. They all feel that most law firm brochures and leave-behinds offer little or no value as currently constituted.

7. They all see associates doing work that could sometimes be delegated to paralegals.

8. They don’t care about Super Lawyer status in making a hiring decision.

9. They all rate industry knowledge as more important than Super Lawyer status or Chambers rankings.

10. They all give plus points to firms with alternative fee flexibility.

11. They all would like to see some quantification of a lawyer’s experience on a profile or in sales materials, such as how many trials they have done, how many transactions they have closed of a certain type, percentages of times they have finished a project under budget or ahead of schedule, etc.

12. They would give a law firm plus points for going through systemic project management training (something offered in many companies).

13. They would like to see industry experience on a lawyer’s profile (but don’t).

14. They want law firm relationship lawyers to tell them quickly if the firm is in the news or about to be in the news in a bad way (harassment allegations, client overbilling charges, a raft of lawyers leaving, etc.) so that the in-house person can do “damage control” internally with curious C-suite questioners.

Four out of five agreed that:

1. They would be favorably impressed by a firm that offers free annual visits solely for the purpose of learning more about a client’s business.

2. They would speak to outside counsel about improving before firing them or dumping them from an approved list.

3. They don’t care about the length of law firm brochures or leave-behinds – just whether the relevant information to them is in there.

4. They would be receptive to having a valued provider introduce them to another lawyer who could also become a valued provider.

5. They would consider paying a bonus to a law firm for solid work that closes ahead of schedule or delivers results beyond expectations.

Three out of five said that:

1. They have instructed law firms that they will not pay for 1st year associate time on certain projects.

2. They must like the lawyer they are hiring.

3. They would like to see lawyer hobbies and interests on attorney profiles.

4. They look first to other in-house sources for referrals when seeking out a new lawyer in a new field.

5. They would be interested to know how a firm makes use of technology to better serve its clients in terms of cost, speed or results.

One lawyer noted that she never looks at cases cited by lawyers, and takes a dim view of string cites supplied in lawyer profiles or even briefs. She wants to know the bottom line answers, and is too busy to read cases or review “legal gymnastics.” Other panelists were noted giving a nod to this observation as well.

The panelists also offered their individual opinions on a variety of topics that are important to legal service providers. For instance, they each called out different service issues most likely to get a lawyer fired or dropped from approved counsel listings as follows:

  • Going materially over budget on billing;
  • Being poor at communicating or responding; and
  • Having no strategy for achieving objectives.

Other real-life service issues that caused lawyers to be fired were:

  • Allowing a 1st year associate to bill more than 16 hours in a day;
  • Doing a poor job on a project; and
  • Sending a brief to the GC for review just one day prior to it being due.

Some of the things most often missing from RFPs or sales pitches are:

  • Budgets; and
  • How you plan to achieve great results.

Some suggested ways of getting into the door to see them:

  • Just pick up the phone and call;
  • Find a way to get introduced through one of my trusted advisers or friends;
  • Offer to speak to me about a hot topic that affects my business.

Some examples of “wow” service that clients loved include:

  • Getting things done weeks before they are due instead of at the last minute;
  • Great project management and communications;
  • Creative and thoughtful work under pressure and wonderful follow-up on a deal that did not even close through no fault of the lawyer; and
  • Referrals to other firms who can provide better expertise in certain areas.

Some examples of publications they like to read include:

  • The Cooley Godward patent litigation newsletter;
  • The Practising Law Institute summaries; and
  • ACC publications for in-house lawyers.

Some quotes and paraphrases of interest:

1. “Firms should have better metrics to determine costs on various matters… Give us goal posts and we’ll work between them… Outside counsel generally need to be more proactive about discussing budgets.”

2. “Associates must try to be efficient, but they also have to be careful while learning. My advice to them is ‘Measure twice and cut once’ because a mistake can be deadly. It is up to the partners to train them and to write off their time, if necessary, while learning.”

3. “I measure a lawyer’s emotional intelligence as much as their skills. We need to put the right attorneys in front of our clients – people who will fit well with the group and make a good impression.”

4. “The size of the firm is not important to me, as long as the fit is right, and hourly rates don’t matter at all if the expertise is there to demonstrate value.”

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 30, 2014

Chief Legal Officers Talk About Their Hot Button Issues

At the LSSO RainDance conference on June 5, a panel of all-star legal leaders provided answers to numerous rapid-fire questions about legal sales and service.

The panel included: Thomas Sabatino, V.P., General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Walgreen Company; Jason Brown, V.P., General Counsel and Secretary for Dyson Inc.; David Cambria, Global Director of Law, Compliance & Government Relations; and Gabe Miller, President and General Counsel of 1-800-Law-Firm.

Four out of four, or 100 percent of General Counsel agreed that:

1. They prefer to like the outside lawyers they hire.

2. They don’t care about the total amount or length of information on a lawyer’s website bio – they just want it to have information that is relevant to them and not too hard to find.

3. They don’t care about the length of a practice group description – they just want it to have information that is relevant to them and not too hard to find.

4. They would be receptive to outside lawyers asking how they are doing and how they can improve.

5. They prefer in-person service surveys to written forms.

6. They would accept an introduction to a new lawyer if it comes from a current lawyer who is a trusted advisor.

7. They see little or no value in most law firm brochures and leave-behinds, as currently written.

8. They do not see outside counsel making strong attempts to learn the client’s business or industry.

9. They think most outside counsel do not understand the importance of business and industry context to a matter.

10. They look first to their fellow GCs and in-house counsel for references when looking for a new outside lawyer in a new area.

11. They use engagement letters to instruct outside counsel on billing practices and other important parts of representation, and they audit firms for compliance with those hiring instructions.

12. They give plus points to firms that have alternative fee flexibility and minus points to those who don’t.

13. They give plus points to firms that have undergone systematic project management training.

14. They want outside counsel to pick up the phone and proactively tell them about any headline problems the firm is having (deserting partners, sexual misconduct, associates caught overbilling, etc) so they can be prepared to defuse the situation with their CEO if asked about the stability of Firm X.

15. They would like to see some kind of quantification of a lawyer or law firm’s experience, as in number of cases tried to verdict, number of transactions closed by type, percentage of times they have delivered results under budget, etc.

16. They would like to see industry experience on a lawyer’s profile.

17. They see very few firms proactively seeking out client feedback on service and performance.

Three out of four said that:

1. The work of 1st year associates is generally not worth paying for.

2. In some or all matters, they have instructed firms that they won’t pay for 1st year time.

3. They usually speak to an outside lawyer about improving before canning them.

4. They have used e-billing software to check law firm invoices for compliance with hiring letter instructions.

5. They have fired firms or lawyers because they ignored the hiring instructions.

6. They don’t care about Super Lawyer status.

7. They value industry knowledge and experience more than materially lower hourly rates, but rates are more important than Chambers rankings.

8.  They would like to know how a law firm uses technology to improve delivery times, improve quality or cut costs.

9. They would give a law firm plus points for undergoing a process improvement program IF it produced measurable enhancements in efficiency.

10. They would be interested in seeing a little something about lawyer hobbies or interests on their profiles.

Some of the other highlights from questioning included the following:

1. Half of the panelists said that they MUST like the person they are hiring as outside counsel.

2. Half regularly read one or more law firms newsletters or client alerts.

3. Half think law firm “leave-behinds” should be two pages or less, and the other half don’t care about length – only wanting to see as much “relevant” material as possible.

4. Service issues likely to get lawyers dumped include: being wishy-washy about advice; busting budgets; surprising the GC with negative news; and not following guidelines in the hiring instruction letter.

5. Half scrutinize outside counsel most closely on whether or not they listen well and respond exactly to what the GC is asking.

6. Half would give plus points to a firm that had a service pledge promising adherence to certain service standards.

7. None of them would penalize a lawyer for displaying hobbies or interests on a profile.

8. Half actually initiate or insist on service interviews with their top firms to assess how they are doing and how things can improve.

9. They wish firms would make better use of data so that they can develop reasonable fixed fee arrangements and alternative fee arrangements, predict outcomes better for liability and damages, and demonstrate cost histories by types and locations of matters. Companies have to make use of data every day – they don’t get how so many law firms are still “flying blind” in 2014.

10. They don’t think firms are honest enough about what they can NOT do well.

The panelists were all savvy veteran legal leaders, one of whom had also served as a CEO, and three of whom had been in the chief legal chair at more than one company. Their responses were also fairly consistent with other panels I have hosted, and so law firms would do well to pay attention to them !

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 13, 2014

In-house Legal Leaders Speak Out

A panel of in-house legal leaders shared their thoughts on legal sales and service issues at the LSSO RainDance conference on June 5, and some of their perspectives inspired a good many follow-up questions from the audience.

The panel included: Jason Brown, VP, GC and Secretary for Dyson; Thomas Sabatino, VP, GC and Corporate Secretary for Walgreen Company; Gabe Miller, President and GC of 1-800-Law-Firm; and David Cambria, Global Director of Operations, Law, Compliance and Government Operations for Archer Daniels Midland Company.

Some of the comments that were popularly tweeted and re-tweeted included the following paraphrases:

  • “I expect you to know my industry and know my business” (a perspective that seemed to be unanimous);
  • “I am tired of outside lawyers who whine about having to do budgets. This is one of the most frustrating things I deal with” (another perspective that more than one panelist echoed);
  • “When I look for a lawyer in a new area, I turn first to other GCs and in-house lawyers in my rolodex to see who they use” (this comment too drew head-nodding from the panel);
  • “One sure way to get fired is to go around me to the CEO” (a tactic that more than one GC has had to endure); and
  • “When I ask about your experience, I expect you to know not only your history of results, but your history of charges for the legal services rendered to get those results. How can you not pay attention to that?”

In the coming days, I expect to summarize more of the responses to the rapid-fire rounds of questions aimed at in-house legal leaders last week. Some attendees have asked when a summary might be posted and I am just waiting on more note-takers to send me their take-aways soon.

 

 

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