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The Client Contact You Must Meet

Firms today are missing out on work because they’re failing to invest in a hugely important client contact: the in-house legal operations professional. Building relationships with GCs and in-house counsel is very valuable, but it often fails to translate into more work if you’re not also communicating regularly with the director of legal operations team.

Connie Brenton, Senior Director of Legal Operations at NetApp Inc. and the CEO of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (“CLOC”), spoke at last week’s Wicker Park Group Client Relationship Symposium and explained that firms are missing a critical link when they fail to even understand these professionals exist at many clients today. Their titles and responsibilities may vary from client to client, but they are growing more essential to legal departments faced with tight budgets and more demanding mandates. These days, most legal operations leads own the legal department budget and drive vendor management, and that includes law firm relationships and convergence programs, etc.

Per Brenton, keep in mind these tips and utilize the legal operations team to strengthen your client relationships:

  • Ask each client if their in-house team includes legal operations people and identify who those people are. According to Brenton, firms often miss out on work just by failing to identify that they must meet these contacts to get work.
  • Keep in mind that in many in-house departments, all money must go through legal ops, meaning those are the people who need to approve budgets, rate changes, etc.
  • When meeting with a legal ops contact, don’t just introduce the partners. It’s usually equally important that the legal ops contacts get to know the pricing professionals, COO, CIO and client service officers from the firm. With partners, the conversation is too often limited to results and not efficiencies.
  • Try to understand the metrics. Legal ops teams are using metrics to study every aspect of the in-house/outside counsel relationship. While data alone won’t get you a strong relationship, your numbers need to work for the client.
  • Understand what tools (technology and otherwise) the legal ops teams are using to make their lives easier. You might need to adopt them, and you can also provide any helpful resources to other clients in need of similar efficiencies.

The entry point to client relationships was once almost exclusively the GC and in-house counsel, but that’s changing rapidly. While every client will be different, the legal operations team is more than ever in a position to become a powerful client advocate.

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