Posted by: johnocunningham | May 24, 2017

Chief Legal Officers Reveal Their Service Preferences and Hot Buttons

At the LSSO RainDance conference in Dallas, TX on May 10, a panel of all-star legal leaders provided answers to numerous rapid-fire questions about legal sales and service.

The panel included: Audrey Rubin, VP and COO of the Aon Global law department; Telisa Webb-Schelin, CLO, Executive VP and Corporate Secretary for TIER REIT, Inc.; Allen Walker, Executive VP and GC for Heritage Health Solutions; and David Wheeler, GC for BBA Aviation’s aftermarket service businesses.

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

  1. They would be favorably impressed with any lawyer who offered free annual visits solely to learn more about the client’s business;
  2. Super Lawyer status is irrelevant to them;
  3. They strongly prefer to like the lawyers they hire (as people, not just as professionals)
  4. They would welcome a conversation with an outside firm about how they are doing and how they can improve
  5. They prefer legal service surveys that are done with a human rather than on a form
  6. Each of them regularly reads one or more law firm newsletters or client alerts
  7. Either they or their finance teams have audited law firm invoices for adherence to hiring instructions
  8. All of them strongly consider the voice of other trusted counsel in selecting a new lawyer in a new area, particularly the voice of other in-house counsel
  9. Industry knowledge and understanding are more important hiring factors than Chambers rankings or hourly rates
  10. Getting to their desk quickly with a client alert is important because they get lots of them and won’t read the ones that come late on any given subject
  11. They all want to know about any bad news relating to a law firm BEFORE it hits the newspapers
  12. All would like to see industry specific experience on a lawyer’s website profile

With respect to other issues:

  1. Three of four stated that they would not pay for 1st year associate time for some or all matters
  2. Two stated that they MUST like the lawyer they hire
  3. Two of four speak with outside lawyers about improving if necessary, but two are more inclined to just stop using lawyers who fail to measure up
  4. Three of four don’t care about the length of law firm website and collateral materials – they just want the material to contain what is relevant to them in a way that is easy to find
  5. Three of four think law firm brochures and leave-behinds offer little or no value
  6. Firms get fired for being slow on service, moving forward on a key decision without authority, and missing agreed deadlines
  7. RFPs and sales pitches could benefit from the inclusion of good and relevant references or testimonials, as well as better demonstration of business/industry understanding
  8. Some of the law firm publications that got called out favorably included the Baker McKenzie International Trade Compliance Update, and general corporate client alerts from Jones Day, Weil Gotshal and Arnold & Porter.
  9. With regard to non-legal service providers, they called out providers that cater to and recognize their personalized needs and preferences, being particularly respectful of their time and not repeatedly trying to “upsell” them on things they don’t want or need.
  10. Two usually access firm websites and firm info via their desktops at work and two access such info across multiple devices in roughly equal time shares
  11. Three of four would like to see more quantification of lawyer experience on lawyer profiles (numbers of cases, size of matters handled, etc.)
  12. Three of four use some sort of technology solutions to replace or cut legal professional staffing/time on projects when they can
  13. Individual preferences of the legal leaders included predelictions for…  a. early litigation case assessments, b. shorter legal memos with clear recommendations on course of action, c. the use of executive summaries with longer memos, d. the issuance of more prompt and regular invoices that clearly identify the matter and client, e. providing annual reports to a client on what a firm has done for the client and the firm’s relationship with the client, f. improving diversity on service teams at both the associate and partnership levels, and g. respecting the fact that corporate internal decision-making can take time necessitating presentation of key information well before legal deadlines.

The panelists covered a lot of other ground, some of which will be summarized in future posts.

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