Posted by: johnocunningham | June 12, 2018

What Senior Legal Officers At Coveted Clients Are Thinking

At the LSSO RainDance conference in Chicago on June 6, a panel of all-star legal leaders from global companies provided answers to numerous rapid-fire questions about legal sales and service.

The panel included: David Cambria, Global Director of Operations for Law, Compliance, and Government Relations at Archer Daniels Midland Company; Marta Carreira-Slabe, Chief Counsel for Aon Latin America; and Matt Nolan, VP & General Counsel for the Ancra Group of the Heico Companies.

Among the revelations at the panel event were the following:

  • Everyone welcomes free annual on-site visits from valued outside counsel who want to learn more about their business.
  • Law firms are not making positives shifts in service delivery and options fast enough, which has resulted in more business to going to Big Four consulting firms, technology solutions providers, contract lawyers and other alternative service providers.
  • As with past panels, ALL agree that they strongly prefer to like their outside counsel on a personal level, so character and personality counts.
  • ALL agree that they would welcome a conversation with outside counsel on how they can improve, but this conversation is rarely invited by the outside lawyers.
  • ALL agree that outside lawyers need to make much better efforts to understand client businesses and industries, and give advice that is industry-business relevant.
  • The most prominent service issues still cluster around communications, empathy and responsiveness.
  • RFPs and sales pitches can be improved with more focus, fewer pages, some market differentiation, and much more emphasis on “how” superb results are to be delivered, and how they will be business-industry relevant.
  • For the first time in years of panel events, ALL of the participants agreed that they would give a law firm plus points for having gone through a serious process improvement or project management program (preferably both).
  • All panelists agreed that they most often access law firm websites and Internet legal information via their desktops, rather than cellphones or tablets. Desktops continue to be favored by senior legal leaders, perhaps because they spend so much time in the office.
  • It is important for outside counsel not to “speak down” to in-house legal pros, who feel that there are all-too-common underestimations of their expertise, commitment, hours and legal scholarship.
  • Each of the panelists is working on ways to collaborate with their most valued providers on constant ratcheting up of service quality, speed and cost-effectiveness, so if you are not among the firms chosen for dedication to “perpetual improvement” you may not be among the most valued.
  • The panelists must build trust with their own in-house business “clients,” and they do so by listening to their concerns, spending time with them, responding quickly to their concerns when asked, and acting like friends rather than policemen.

These were some of the many insights the panelists shared. If you attended RainDance and would like to add some of your own observations about what was most important to senior legal officers, please feel free to share a post.

Thanks to Marta, David and Matt for their generous sharing of their time and insights !

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