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All posts by Nathaniel Slavin

We always tell our law firm clients that communication is the key to the best client relationships. And communication takes many forms: the written word, the business-practical and commercial advice, the tone you set when talking to in-house counsel, the way in-house counsel want and expect to communicate for any and every matter and, of […]

Interview With Rich Cohen, President and General Counsel Corporate Creations Corporate Creations is the third largest provider of registered agent and compliance services nationwide for Fortune 1000 companies, Global 2000 companies and private companies. It also provides registered agent services for many law firms and their clients. Corporate Creations is a privately held company. It […]

The following article, written by Susan Kostal, was posted June 1 as part of JD Supra’s Perspectives series. I’ve attended many panels where in-house counsel share their likes and dislikes, but in the last year the tone has changed. In-house attorneys are increasingly dissatisfied, they tell us, because they can’t have the kind of conversations they […]

For the last decade, we have worked with firms to launch, lead, develop and support client feedback interviews. And in almost every firm, the managing partner or chair is either already conducting relationship visits or planning to do them as soon as possible. They often come to us to discuss how to both train the […]

When clients take the time to offer feedback, they give their lawyers and firms a gift. It is the gift of their time—a gift demonstrating they care about the relationship. But with that gift comes great responsibility. And unlike a traditional gift, you have to do much more than just send a thank you note […]

It happens. General counsel get fired—and sometimes fired very publicly. And law firms are rarely prepared for the unexpected people changes at their clients, let alone have a clear plan as to how they might impact the work and the larger client relationship. Ironically, law firms spend significant time thinking about what may happen if […]

At the end of a client feedback interview last week, the senior in-house counsel I was speaking with summed up the relationship by saying, “At the end of the day, they get all my work because they make me look good.” It is that simple. In an era where competition is greater than ever and […]

Howard Schultz recently announced he is stepping down from his role as CEO and Chair of Starbucks to focus on the company’s plans to build high-end coffee shops that charge as much as $12 per cup of coffee. That makes me think of the top end of the lawyer’s hourly billable rate. The $2,000 hour […]

Many law firms understand how to meet their client’s biggest and most obvious client service preferences. We’ve all laughed about (and learned from) the story of the firm that FedExed its RFP response to UPS and was summarily dismissed from the process as well as the firm that forgot to remove competitor products from the […]

In the past month, I have moderated multiple in-house counsel panels (both in public forums and at private law firm retreats), interviewed more than a dozen in-house counsel and led client service workshops at law firms. In every instance, I was struck by the widening gap between what clients want from their outside counsel and […]

I was recently challenged to explore what client service will look like in 2026. The good news is the conversation has already started, but the bad news is law firms have a long way to go. It is great that the idea of “client service” is authentically being explored within law firms, but what many […]

When discussing client relationships and client service with law firm leaders, we are often asked a question I find surprising: When is the best time to go visit a client? Before delving into the answers to that question, we often set the stage with the lawyers (and the marketing and business development professionals) we are […]

Unsurprisingly, no law firm has had the courage in recent weeks to say, “In light of the unjustified first-year associate salary increases, we are reducing first-year base compensation by $10,000 to better align our business with our clients’ ongoing economic reality and invest in our client relationships.” There is no value to your clients in […]

The massive uptick in how corporate legal departments and law firms are collecting data to make smarter decisions in any number of areas may very well disrupt the legal industry. But Big Data is not a replacement for Little Data: the voice of the individual client. From IBM’s ROSS and Watson to Mitratech’s March acquisition […]

The single greatest truth in any client feedback effort is simple: If you are not prepared to act on the feedback, don’t ask for it. In every client feedback program—whether we are conducting the interviews ourselves or training the firm on how to conduct them—managing the clients’ expectations is critical to the program’s success. We […]

In a recent client feedback interview, a deputy general counsel told a common story. He had all but forgotten the Thursday deadline for a filing in a litigation matter of medium importance. His regular outside litigation counsel had a conflict, and he was trying a new firm on the recommendation of a colleague. The firm […]

Not too long ago I interviewed the CFO of a Fortune 1000 company who told me, “You picked a bad day to come visit me.” My response: “Great, I am glad we have something to talk about!” He then explained the background. Outside counsel had been confident in how a judge was going to rule—so […]

Clients come in every shape and size, and every client has a different set of expectations from outside counsel. And “every client” means each individual at the same company has a different style and set of needs that needs to be known, hence our mantra: One Size Fits One. While each client will have individual […]

The year is still new, but the refrain remains the same. Lawyers in firms are finally back at work, catching up from the protracted holiday break and now excited about the promise the new year brings. Yet I’ve already had the conversation with a client about the “attitude” busy lawyers have when they are, well, […]

In early December, I was talking to a law firm senior associate about his successes for the year and goal setting for next year and made the obvious comment about the rush to get in hours for the year. He responded, “Oh, I hit my hours last month so now I can coast.” I don’t […]

The bad news is that it may be too late to come up with a gift for your clients that will stand out from the crowd. But that is not the real goal of a gift; the goal of a gift is to create a memory. At the end of the year when you think […]

It is a rare gift for a lawyer who has spent an entire career solving clients’ problems to be able to sit down with a client, truly listen to the client’s assessment of the relationship, get feedback and—most importantly—act on the feedback. As a consequence, law firms often confuse client feedback interviews with “thank you” […]

Corporate legal departments have no resources. Seriously. A global head of litigation recently told me: “I would pay my firms faster, but we don’t have the process in place to smartly review the bills. We don’t have the time to figure out how to do it, and we work with so many firms we wouldn’t know where to […]

The following scenario will never, ever happen in a law firm: A client walks into the reception of a major global law firm with a bill in hand and says to whomever happens to be at the reception desk, aggressively, “This bill arrived 90 days after the matter was closed and is 20 percent more […]

When lawyers are unhappy at their firm, they have a nasty habit of telling their clients. And the clients take notice. In a recent column for The American Lawyer, The Careerist columnist Vivia Chen cites a Harvard Business Review article as context and support for her position that the benefit of the quest for workplace happiness is overstated. The […]

Last month, I spent two days with my dear friend Sanju Kripalani at Wicker Park Group’s annual client event. Sanju has one of those careers that very well may be unique to him: pedigreed education, New York law firm, Portland partner, DJ, marketing partner, patron of the arts, club owner, general counsel, yachtsman and now, […]

Interview with Joni Lee Gaudes, Vice President, General Counsel & Co-Head of Internal Control FCTI, Inc. FCTI, Inc. is a leading nationwide ATM network and service provider. Since 1993, it has deployed customized ATM solutions to America’s largest financial institutions, travel centers and retailers. The Los Angeles-based company is owned by Seven Bank, LTD and operates in […]

In a recent conversation with a Fortune 500 in-house counsel, I asked how she defines value. She replied, “Value is the most ill-defined concept in the legal industry. What I value is a firm that understands how its work fits into my work life. But when you ask my boss or the CFO, they are […]

During the 2015 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, keynote speaker Daniel Pink discussed many themes related to the role sales plays in the lawyer-client relationship. For decades, lawyers have pushed back aggressively that they aren’t in the business of sales. Of course, they are wrong. Sales is not something out of Glengarry Glen Ross (Pink redefines the […]

In the last 100 or so interviews I’ve conducted with general counsel, business executives, staff attorneys and other corporate buyers of legal services, I have heard 100 different answers to the question: How does your organization hire outside counsel? Every organization is different, and every law firm relationship is different. The idea that there is […]

Great lawyers—the ones who have the highest client loyalty, extraordinary business acumen and an innate understanding of what it truly means to be successful—all share one common trait: They listen. They listen to their clients, they listen to their teams, they listen to ideas and they act on what they hear. But even the best […]

Part 1: Intro to the Grid In this multi-part series, we explore the basics of creating an integrated business development training curriculum. We know lawyers are incredibly busy people. And we also know lawyers, like everyone else, each learn differently. These two facts—lack of time and individual learning styles—reinforce the need for firms to create […]

“You are not talking to my client.” “My clients will tell me if they have a concern or problem.” “Clients are too busy.” “We don’t know how to respond to negative news.” “I have already talked to them about how we can grow the relationship.” “Where do we start?”   The list of reasons to […]

Having worked with countless law firms, one thing stands out more profoundly than almost anything else: Law firms hate change. They dread economic change, structural change, organizational change and—perhaps above all others—changes with clients. One of the most difficult client changes is a client’s retirement or, even worse, a client being fired. When I ask […]

For those firms that have not yet notified their clients of their intentions to increase rates after the first of the year, it’s already too late. Not every company budgets on a calendar year annual basis, but for those that do, that process is nearly complete by mid-October. In-house counsel typically draft budgets in September, […]

In our conversations with in-house counsel about what law firms can do to strengthen and deepen their relationships, we often seek a short and sweet answer to the question. The answer is easy, but following through is very, very hard. The answer: Understand what it means to differentiate from the competition in the eyes of […]

We often preach the importance of managing clients’ expectations—it’s a common theme explored in our client feedback interview work. Managing expectations takes many forms and often relates to deadlines, budgets, project plans, news and updates. But managing expectations starts long before that and is often about clear communication more than anything else. Set an agenda […]

Wicker Park Group Partner Nat Slavin shared several important tips on how to avoid losing clients in a recent Law360 article titled “5 Tips to Keep Your Client From Breaking Up with You.”  Understand your client’s challenges. “Lawyers should ask what is going on in the client’s business in the next 12 months that they […]

Knowing that word of mouth referrals dominate attorney and law firm hiring decisions, Stinson Leonard Street decided to accelerate their understanding of the firm’s referability. Adding to their already robust client feedback efforts which include regular leadership visits, internal and third party conducted in-person and telephone client interviews, and a client advisory panel; the firm […]

Lindsay Griffiths, the Director of Global Relationship Management with the International Lawyers Network, has a great write-up of a panel discussion on project management, fee arrangements and what law firms need to do to serve their clients’ needs in a relatively fast-moving landscape. The panel was held in April at the Legal Marketing Association annual […]

While there continues to be much debate about the impact of the ACC’s Value Challenge in the U.S. market, there is no doubt that demonstrating value in key client relationships with law firms (and all clients for that matter) is critical. The Association of Corporate Counsel has announced that they are expanding the Value Challenge to Europe and created […]

This new video from RethinkLaw perfectly captures the state of the Legal industry and the ongoing and evolving shift in the client/law firm relationship.

Article By: Janet Ellen Raasch – Strategic Writing And Ghostwriting   Lawyers are always interested in getting more work and better work from their existing clients. If you ask a lawyer what his or her client really wants, the lawyer is likely to say “good legal work.” If you ask the client, you’ll get a far different answer. […]

The most important part of the client feedback process is being prepared to act on the feedback you receive. When we advise our law firm and professional service firms on best practices in client feedback there are several “rules” to follow, but the number one rule is: You are making a promise. You are making a […]

At a recent Legal Marketing Association panel discussion on Social Media, I was struck by how much the conversation focused on what law firms think they should do about social media without paying attention to their clients. While it is critical that law firms have a plan for social media, including piloting the project, getting attorney buy-in […]

Most law firms do not seek client feedback despite the proven benefits, a new study finds. The study, conducted by Wicker Park Group in conjunction with LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, finds that 52% of firms globally do not conduct client feedback programs even though 83% of the respondents believe that their clients value the opportunity to provide […]

In today’s Wall Street Journal in an article titled Top Lawyers Push Rates Above $1,000 an Hour(subscription required) the author leads the article by noting a “significant increase” in rates from previous years and that the lawyers are “taking advantage of big clients’ willingness to pay top dollar for certain types of services.” What? Taking advantage […]

Reed Smith will undoubtedly hit $1 billion in revenue in 2011, according totoday’s Am Law Daily. The legal publication has been reporting big numbers all week, but why isn’t there an uproar over this news, like we have seen as a result of the big banks and CEO bonuses?  Big league New York firms are reporting record profits, with […]

In the January/February Issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine (pp. 11-15) Bob Denneyexplores what’s hot and what’s not hot in the legal profession. Among the marketing and business development trends, Denney lists Client Interviews in his top four along with Growth Strategies, the creation of the Chief Value Officer and filling long-vacant Chief Marketing Officer positions.   As […]

Client Alerts

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There’s an interesting conversation happening on the LinkedIn Legal Marketing group (membership required). Here’s my post to the question on whether firms should eliminate client alerts and generally how to ascertain the value of client alerts: — The answer to the question is: One size fits one. Every client is different and has different needs. […]

In the November 2010 issue of the American Lawyer new AmLaw editor-in-chief Robin Sparkman (former editor of sibling publication Corporate Counsel) opens the issue with an editorial that tackles head-on the resistance firm leadership has to engaging in client feedback. Select quotes include:  “Many partners simply don’t want their MP or chairman to meet with their biggest clients—even if […]

In the October 2010 Smock Sterling update on the legal marketplace the firm reports that in addition to lateral hiring firms are more actively engaging in client feedback: “Based on talking to our clients and friends in the legal market, both increased lateral hiringand regular formal client feedback have been widely addressed. Lateral hiring is clearly up and most healthy […]

My friend and in-house marketing professional extraordinaire Heather Milligan of Barger & Wollen has an excellent post at The Legal Watercooler on how to counteract the not uncommon lawyer stance that they are “too busy to market.” She offers great advice on how to overcome the failure’s of lawyers to understand the value of networking, and I am privileged to be mentioned in […]

In a letter to law firm leadership, Association of Corporate Counsel General Counsel Susan Hackett explains how law firms can access the “satisfaction” survey in-house counsel have been participating in since ACC’s announcement of the initiative last October. The initiative, dubbed “Value Index” is part of the broader ACC Value Challenge. An evolving initiative for in-house counsel and law firm’s […]

Last week, I accompanied one of our client’s managing partner and marketing director teams on a client feedback interview. The first thing the managing partner said after leaving the client’s office was, “That was really fun! We should be doing this every month. It should be part of my job description as managing partner.” And […]

Join me and Sandy Williams, Client Service Partner at Foley & Lardner and leader of the initiative and others to learn how your firm or corporation can get beyond the alternative fee discussion and toward superior client service: Doug Chia, Senior Counsel & Assistant Corporate Secretary, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ Doug provides legal […]

My friend Dov Seidman has a great post on the Huffington Post about how to think of partnering with your clients. As we talk to in-house counsel and other corporate executives we constantly hear that those outside counsel who understand business pressures, are aware of the internal clients’ needs and have “aligned goals” have the greatest loyalty […]

My dear friend Sarah Robinson is doing something amazing. She has asked 30 people to author a blog post under the theme “Changing Your Game.” One post will appear each day for 30 days. Today is day four of the series and is my day to contribute! Please check out my poston “Making The List.”

My friend Pat Lamb just shared this reminder in his In Search of Perfect Client Service blog (via Dan Hull) Client service is hard. We always remind law firm attorneys to do the following three things when learning how to best serve your clients: 1. Ask how you are doing.2. Respond to the answer to that question.3. […]

Of all the comments uttered by in-house counsel, this one may be the most universal. In-house counsel are like in-house police: they either bring news that the company has violated or been violated. They have few opportunities to ever get ahead of the curve, to be a partner in managing the company’s risk, in championing […]

Using Client Feedback and Opinions to Develop Winning Service Strategies April 23, 2009University of Chicago Gleacher CenterChicago, IL The most successful law firms have the deepest relationships with their clients. Most often those relationships are based on in-depth feedback programs and are tied to higher client retention and increased profitability. This unique master class is […]

A recent survey of the web habits of general in-house counsel has revealed that almost 90% of them agreed that a law firm’s website plays a key role in influencing a purchasing decision. The survey was conducted by Wicker Park Group on behalf of Hubbard One, a Thomson Reuters business that provides services for marketing […]

Optics Matter

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Optics: How your actions are perceived. Nope, that’s not the way any dictionary would define the word, but today, in this business environment, it is a term that has been redefined. Today, optics refers to the lens through which your actions are viewed. In recent days, we have a financial services firm canceling a (perceived) […]

It should not come as a surprise, but in-house counsel are working harder than ever. In conversations with dozens of in-house counsel in recent weeks, GC’s are shifting work within departments that have historically gone to outside counsel, and working extra hours for the same amount of money. They know this wouldn’t happen at law […]

In recent conversations with several in-house counsel, most are (unsurprisingly) revealing that they are freezing rates paid to counsel in 2009. What’s interesting is two-fold: 1. Many are not proactively notifying their outside counsel, but rather waiting to see if their outside counsel will actually raise rates in 2009, and notify them of the increase […]

Every day we talk to in-house counsel and law firm leadership about the lawyer-client relationship. Through this blog, the partners and consultants of the Wicker Park Group will share our thoughts on the trends, concerns and ideas that impact how firms are differentiating themselves in the eyes of in-house counsel.    We will also be sharing comments […]

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