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.

Posted by: johnocunningham | May 22, 2017

What’s New in Legal Service Innovation?

Law firms and corporate law departments are finally taking calculated risks to become innovation leaders in the increasingly competitive field of legal service delivery, and some of those risks are paying off in a big way.

That is what Professor Gabe Teninbaum, the Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation at Suffolk University Law School, told an audience of global firms and consultants at the 2017 LSSO RainDance Conference in Dallas on May 10.

Some of the innovations that he highlighted include:

  1. A 2,500 square foot “innovation laboratory” that Reed Smith has opened as a space dedicated to bringing firm professionals together to develop innovative ideas for the benefit of clients. Alex Smith in London has become the firm’s innovation leader after a stint as “innovation manager” at LexisNexis. The firm also has “innovation hubs” in London and New York that are dedicated to hatching practical ideas pertinent to: a. new and developing areas of law (such as law and regulation related to drones or self-driving cars); b. new ways of delivering legal services to clients in ways they favor; and c. methods of streamlining legal processes for faster and less expensive legal service delivery.
  2. CS Disco, the fastest growing e-discovery technology, which was initially developed at a litigation boutique in Houston that does a lot of IP litigation. More than 400 firms and 50 of the AmLaw 200 use this lawyer-developed technology now.
  3. The Founders Workbench, pioneered by Boston’s Goodwin Procter, a legal resource that helps fledgling entrepreneurs to get started in the formation, operation, hiring, and growing of their businesses.
  4. Littler Mendelson has hired a data director with MIT Sloan School experience to help the firm utilize “big data” to serve its clients better, following up on its CaseSmart system for better HR  and case management.
  5. Bryan Cave has launched TechX, an incubator to foster the testing and mastery of new legal technologies, utilizing among other things, free one-year tech trials where tech providers allow the firms and its clients to get used to various state of the art technologies with the help of some coaching.
  6. The General Electric law department has created a kind of in-house “Yelp” for lawyers, which allows lawyers to rate and rank law firms and lawyers as service providers, sharing information about particular types of cases and results.
  7. Verizon’s law department undertook process improvement training and applied it to their contracts approval process, streamlining the time for approvals and improving the consistency of the contracts, resulting in an estimated savings of more than $20 million per year.
  8. Liberty Mutual and Fidelity Investments have brought IDEO-type “design thinking” into their legal operations, constantly focusing on the development of systems that are easier and better for corporate clients to use when interfacing with the law departments.
  9. Kia, the Korean carmaker, has a legal department which now tests the software skills of outside lawyers and firm professionals, providing them with “up-training” as necessary to improve speed and results before Kia takes an engagement with a firm.
  10. Baker Hostetler is now using ROSS, a form of artificial intelligence derived from IBM’s Watson, to sift through thousands of legal documents and public records to pluck out helpful information pertinent to every aspect of a piece of litigation (initially, they are focusing on bankruptcy cases).

Teninbaum says that leading-edge firms are just starting to hire Chief Innovation Officers and directors in charge of surveying what the competition is doing to win the battle for clients, just like corporate clients have done for a long time now.

Looks like there are more changes coming, and a lot of excitement on the horizon for law firms.

Posted by: johnocunningham | May 2, 2017

Best of April Blog Posts: From the Client/Customer Perspective

This is my 53rd 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of April 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts related to the importance of focusing on the client’s perspective to achieve lasting success:

I also liked a post about lessons learned from the United Airlines “forced removal” fiasco by Nancy Myrland on her Myrland Marketing blog. Her well-written post was entitled, “United Airlines: Principle over People and Profits, Was it Worth it?”

Posted by: johnocunningham | April 24, 2017

Real Lawyers With Really Good Blogs

I get asked periodically: “What do you think are good examples of blogs written by reputable lawyers?”

Well, here are three examples I favor:

  • The Margolis & Bloom “Planning for Life” blog features regular posts, content that is useful to both clients and practitioners, and well-written pieces that are easy to digest.  Plus, Harry Margolis is truly the “Dean of Elder Law” and a highly reputable estate planning lawyer.
  • The Employer Handbook is a blog by Eric Meyer, a Philadelphia lawyer with a sense of humor, a conversational writing style, and a knack for finding something new and interesting to write about in employment law almost every day.
  • The Venable LLP “All About Advertising Law” blog, which features frequent posts about the law of advertising and marketing, a field that I love and one that offers lots of interesting real-life stories. Again, it is informative and NOT boring !

So, there you have it. Three good examples of blogs that offer regularly published content that is worth taking the time to read (and it does not take much time because it is well-written and well-condensed rather than long, boring and tedious).

Posted by: johnocunningham | April 17, 2017

Artificial Intelligence Comes to Contract Review Process

A number of artificial intelligence services are now being utilized by corporate legal clients to streamline repetitive processes, such as contract review.

LawGeex is just one example of the recent entries into the legal service field which are being adopted by corporate clients. Law Geex can perform contract review for specific criteria with the promise of rapid turnaround, seamless integration with SalesForce and other programs, and streamlined workflows between and among a company’s sales, operations and legal divisions.

The ABA has recognized that artificial intelligence is already starting to transform the legal profession , and there is no doubt it will continue as human enterprises generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

This is my 52nd 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of March 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A post on the Adam Smith blog, entitled “Size Matters Not So Much,” which provides a good statistical analysis showing that neither profits-per-partner or revenue-per-lawyer are a function of firm size. Maybe it is more a function of good service, satisfied clients and efficient process ?
  2. A post on the Clockwork Design blog, entitled “Where to Find Great Stock Photos,” which provides a list and thumbnails on both free and compensated sites for stock photos.
  3. A post on the ME Marketing Services blog, by Mandy Edwards, entitled “26 Social Media Stats to Back Up Your Strategy,” which offers up some interesting social media utilization metrics for marketers.
  4. A post on the Ackert Advisory, by the insightful and practical David Ackert, entitled “How to Maintain Momentum with Referral Sources,” describing some very basic steps you can take to follow-up after a meeting with a referral source or prospect.
Posted by: johnocunningham | March 31, 2017

GC Tips on How to Pitch to a Client

Law firms that pitch their expertise to savvy corporate clients may want to consider the advice of Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft, who recently penned an article on the subject of making legal sales pitches for Bloomberg Law.

He neatly summarized some of the key factors to successful pitch-work, and I have inserted some of my own comments (parenthetically) as follows:

  • Start Strong (don’t build to your key point – just make it)
  • Know Your Audience (learn and understand the business of the potential client before you pitch)
  • Keep It Simple (corporate clients want to hire someone who can make the complex seem simple, and not vice-versa)
  • Differentiate Your Firm (don’t say the same stuff your competitors do, and know your competition, so you can distinguish yourself from them)
  • Highlight Client References
  • Follow Up on the Pitch (not only seeking constructive feedback, as Garcia suggests, but responding to any points or questions raised by the potential client in your meeting)

As a former General Counsel who have interviewed many other Chief Legal Officers, I would add that it is very important to spend time listening to the potential client and asking carefully crafted questions about what they need, value and want from outside counsel and vendors in general. To do this well, you will need to do your homework on the people you are meeting before you walk into the room. Learn as much as you can about what they love and hate, both professionally and personally. You should also make sure that you bring the right players into the room – assembling a pitch team that fits with the personalities of the people in the room, and the culture of the potential client.

One other key point – you should consider your first meeting with a potential client to be like a first date. Don’t be overly aggressive because that is a turn-off. Just be interested, thoughtful and trustworthy to earn a second date. On average, it will take you several impressions to make a sale with a new target.


Posted by: johnocunningham | March 23, 2017

Alternative Legal Service Providers Rising Rapidly

A recent study highlighted by the ABA Journal has noted that a majority of corporate clients and law firms are now using alternative legal service providers (“ALSPs”) to help them with defined tasks, such as e-discovery, automated document review, economic damage assessments and other tasks.

According to the ABA Journal article, 51 percent of law firms and 60 percent of corporations are now utilizing the services of ALSPs to save costs, reduce labor and/or improve and expedite results.

As noted in a recent article on, the trend is not just about cost savings and it is likely to continue growing.

Furthermore, the current numbers of ALSP users are projected to be 72 percent of law firms and 74 percent of corporations within the coming year.

Law firms must figure out not only how to incorporate the services of the very best ALSPs to save money and improve efficiency for their corporate clients, but how to communicate the benefits and results of this adoption to clients who are clearly aware of and shopping for these alternative services already. If this is not in your messaging already, law firms, then it should be.

A story that appeared last month in Bloomberg Law – about a coming overhaul in the way Microsoft hires law firms – may well be harbinger of things to come for outside law firms of other large clients.

Based on interviews I have done with GCs over the years, I see the following story highlights as likely trends that will gain momentum in the coming years:

  • A continuing move toward hiring specific lawyers with specific expertise rather than hiring firms for one-stop shopping
  • A move toward greater emphasis on building relationships between in-house counsel and minority associates at law firms, which will likely result in more minority partners eventually
  • A shift toward greater use of data and management dashboards by in-house lawyers, who will be able to examine historical data on the performance of individual lawyers in various engagements over the years, their rates, their previous engagements, and the history of who has hired them

The story also notes that Microsoft will be requiring in-house legal managers to hit certain targets for alternative billing. Data from other sources suggest that the alternative billing trend may have slowed in recent years, but that could just be a temporary pause until more creative ways of working with fixed fee arrangements and performance contingencies can be developed.

An Assistant GC at Microsoft said that the company is pushing its outside firms to make better use of data, technology and automation to deliver more value. Law firms that become quick adopters of technology, data analysis, and process improvement disciplines could benefit in the years to come.

This is my 51st 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of February, 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following five blog posts:

  1. A post on the Clockwork Design Group blog, offering a step-by-step guide to content marketing for professional service firms.
  2. A post on the Prodonovich Advisory blog, offering up seven tactics for taking more market share.
  3. A post on the LawVision blog about why you must do more than just satisfy your client.
  4. A post on the Cordell Parvin blog about the importance of listening and communication in client development work.
  5. A post by Susan Duncan on her InFocus blog about the sales and service cycle for professional service firms.

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