Posted by: johnocunningham | March 13, 2015

The Client’s Rules

A recent post on the BTI Consulting Group’s “Mad Clientist” blog articulated “13 Unspoken Rules of Client Relationships.”

BTI is well-known for its work on the study of client relationships and marketplace choices in the professional services industry, and has produced a wonderful list that is consistent with my own experience with client surveys.

A few of the articulated rules ring particularly true for me, including the following:

  • Clients don’t generally fire firms – they just stop working with them. A majority of General Counsel have told me that they do not have time to provide extensive counseling and “second chances” to firms that are not working out. Some will take time to advise a firm that falls short of expectations, but usually you will know they don’t like your work or your service when the phone stops ringing.
  • Clients always have a budget in mind. Sophisticated corporate clients that work with many counsel know what a matter should cost. Even when you don’t put together a budget for them, or when you put one together with a wild low to high range, the client knows where you should fall in that range. They have an expectation even if it is not written down.
  • Clients pride themselves on hiring really smart people, not really cheap people. Over and over again I hear from outside counsel that GCs are “just looking for discounts.” In my experience as a GC and a person who surveys GCs, this is a misunderstanding of what the GC wants. He or she wants “value” for the dollars invested in legal advice or work product. Most GCs report that the more expensive and more experienced lawyer is more often the better “value” (especially when compared to young associates) because the more experienced lawyer in greater demand will take one right step for every 10 missteps of a lesser lawyer.

In addition to the general rules noted by BTI, there are always unspoken rules peculiar to the individual client with whom you are working. It is a good idea to get to know that client as well as possible if you want to comply with his or her rules of satisfaction.



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