I recently noticed an article by Mark Herrmann on the “Above the Law” website, entitled, “Five Ways Reporting Differs at Law Firms and Corporations,” and thought it did a nice job of illustrating some important points about communication with a corporate client.
The article was written from the point of view of one who has served in-house for a corporate legal department (something I did for nearly ten years) and demonstrates that there are multiple key constituents who need to be informed about critical and financially material events in the course of any legal matter, particularly a significant piece of litigation.
As the article illustrates, many companies have requirements for key level officers to authorize settlements that exceed a particular sum, and all public companies (and some private ones) have key financial officers who must keep track of, be alerted to and disclose to shareholders or stakeholders any prospective or concluded settlement involving a material sum of money.
Some other communications tips not mentioned in the article would include the following:
- Inform the appropriate corporate contacts when a matter is going over budget, or is expected to go over budget for legal expenses, regardless of a favorable settlement prospect or outcome because companies are constantly jiggering their forecasts of revenue and expenses to give accurate disclosure to stakeholders, and they need to track all expenses as closely to real time as possible.
- Tell your key corporate contact or contacts about what you have learned from a matter after settlement, letting them know of any exposures that might exist due to policies, practices, procedures or potentially deficient or inadequately trained management or staff personnel so they can correct problems. This kind of added value is something that shows your interest in being a partner and trusted advisor, as well as a service provider.
- Tell your key contacts about any good news you have learned in the course of representation. If the local manager and key witness was a star, tell them. If the records department of the company was incredibly responsive and well-organized, say so. People need to know what is working as well as what is not working, and plaudits are always well-received, and can open doors to new friendships with other personnel at an existing corporate client.