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It is budget season for most AmLaw 200 firms, and most of our clients are evaluating their budgets from last year and reevaluating initiatives, priorities and money spent. We are seeing a few trends from our clients regarding priorities in 2018: Client feedback is at the forefront and driving strategy, growth and priorities at leading […]

Last week, we spent two days facilitating business development workshops for two different groups of attorneys at one law firm. The participants came from different offices and practice areas, and there was a diverse mix of experience levels, comfort with business development and communication styles. At the end of each day’s learning, we asked participants […]

The two most frequently asked questions we answer when working with our clients at the beginning of any engagement are: How do we handle difficult feedback? What happens if we don’t have a formalized system to act and follow up on the feedback we get from our clients? Those two questions are more connected than […]

This is the second of three posts on the value of effective introduction skills. Read the first one, The Importance of a Good Introduction, here. Twenty years ago, I was working as the business development director for the Portland Office of Cooper & Lybrand, the international accounting firm that merged to form PricewaterhouseCoopers. The office […]

Wicker Park Group will periodically revisit some of our most popular blog posts. This post, one of the most read in the first half of 2017, was originally posted in January. 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 […]

At WPG, we read a lot. In the spirit of back to school and reporting on “summer reading,” I share recommendations for two great books about the skills that clients we interview often describe as the traits distinguishing extraordinary from average legal service. Empathy, emotional intelligence, communication skills and the ability to cultivate relationships are essential […]

At a recent leadership roundtable event, WPG facilitated a discussion among managing partners and firm leaders on what they most need from CMOs and marketing teams. The ideas that came out of the discussion aren’t earth shattering—but they are the most essential (and often unsaid) ways in which marketing teams propel their firms forward. The […]

This is the first blog in a three-part series on the value of introductions and how good introduction skills lead to better client service and new business. Check back soon for the second installment. Introductions are everywhere. Think about it: Who among us doesn’t enjoy introducing our friends and colleagues to each other? It’s easy, it’s fun […]

Given what we do for a living, we are often traveling by plane and spend quite a bit of quality time with specific airline carriers. The three of us happen to fly three different airlines, but the experience tends to be the same (not unlike the experience with similarly-sized, capable, leading law firms.) Air travel […]

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. […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, originally posted in June 2016, was one of last year’s most read posts.    I am a devoted fan of National Public Radio and suspect many who are reading this post also find their news stories both informative and memorable. Nina […]

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 […]

It is the rare firm these days that does not offer some form of career and/or business development coaching services to its attorneys. Just about everyone in legal marketing has been asked to “coach” lawyers. Often, however, coaching attorneys in business development is easier said than done. And it can be complicated when succession issues […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, originally posted in June 2016, was one of last year’s most read posts. At the recent Client Experience in Professional Services conference in Durham, North Carolina, Stan Phelps shared his insights about winning the hearts of customers and influencing positive […]

I get the pleasure of seeing some pretty amazing places of business for my job. We get sent to all sorts of businesses all around the world to interview law firm clients and learn about their businesses and how the law firms can serve them better: manufacturing plants, industry giants, privately-held businesses that started from […]

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 […]

If you are like me, most weeks you find and save an article or two about legal marketing and business development. This past week, while sifting through the stack, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Finding Forrester. Released in 2000, it is the story of an unlikely friendship between a reclusive writer […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, originally posted in June 2016, was one of last year’s most read posts. One of our more popular blog posts in 2015 talked about the importance of actively listening to clients in a world of many distractions. We quoted author Sherry Turkle’s observations about […]

Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the fifth article in the series. You can find the first article about how to choose clients for feedback here, the second article about the importance of preparation here, the third article about who […]

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 […]

At Wicker Park Group, we conduct many business development workshops each year and believe strongly in the value of case studies as the best way for attorneys, usually acting in groups, to practice “meeting” with a client prospect for the purpose of developing rapport. Consistently, the experience is eye-opening. In practice, most lawyers spend too […]

Albeit unplanned and a bit happenstance, I have been interviewing quite a few alumni of our law firm clients. Alumni are great interview candidates for many reasons. They have insights and perceptions that go beyond the average firm client. They have “experienced both sides” and have an appreciation of what they would do differently. They […]

Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the fourth article in the series. You can find the first article about how to choose clients for feedback here, the second article about the importance of preparation here and the third […]

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 […]

I recently attended a Birmingham LMA panel discussion moderated by Wicker Park Group partner Laura Meherg entitled “Lateral Integration & How to Avoid a Six-Figure Mistake.” Lateral hiring is often viewed as the number-one growth strategy for law firms. Because most law firms plan to hire laterals, I felt it important to share some of […]

Make It Easy

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At the beginning of 2015, I was given the great opportunity to become a strategic partner with the Wicker Park Group, the preeminent firm focused on client feedback in the legal industry today. At our first meeting, I asked the group: “After more than 2,000 client feedback interviews, what is it that clients care about […]

We have quite a few clients in the process of updating their websites and/or going through a brand overhaul. As many of you know, it is a massive undertaking both from a time and money perspective. But it is also a perfect opportunity to offer clarity to the marketplace on what your firm and lawyers […]

The bar is low. Despite tremendous progress in the past 20 years, law firms continue to lag behind their clients’ industries and other professional service firms when it comes to innovation, client experience and client engagement. Again and again, we hear law firm clients say the attorneys and law firms that stand out from the […]

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 […]

As an alum of Chico State in California, I get the college’s newsletter a few times each year. I recently received one that caught my eye and reminded me of my current work training lawyers on business development. The business school staged a “Sweet Sixteen” competition that tested students’ strategic selling skills. The students, all […]

An IT lawyer recently made a striking observation to me. He works in the flat-screen TV industry and noted that a flat-screen TV from twenty years ago could cost $20,000 or more and lacked much of today’s technology. But every year, the technology has gotten better as the cost has declined. You can now buy […]

Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the third article in the series. You can find the first article about how to choose clients for feedback here and the second article about the importance of preparation here. Most […]

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 […]

Many years ago, one of my prior firms looked to hire its first business development “lead generator.” The candidate we selected had graduated from law school and served as a client of the firm. He had an impressive network of contacts and understood his role—linking potential clients with attorneys at the firm. To avoid potential […]

Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the second article in the series. You can find the first article about how to choose clients for feedback here. Whether conducting interviews face to face or via telephone, we recommend […]

Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the essential processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the first article in the series. Check back regularly for updated entries. Unless you have unlimited time and resources, it is impossible to visit or call every single firm client […]

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 […]

As is customary, the New Year brings with it a variety of resolutions, plans and promises. As such, this is a great time to outline and schedule business development training for the year. Along with the traditional marketing and communication responsibilities, today’s CMOs are expected to oversee new and evolving business development and sales initiatives, […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, originally posted in June, was one of this year’s most read posts. Last week, a friend of mine here in New Orleans asked me for a referral for a good internal medicine physician. Being a corporate lawyer by training and practice, I […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, from October 2015, was one of last year’s most read posts.   In a recent post, we discussed the value of using stories in pitching you, your firm and what sets you apart. The value of telling your story was also mentioned in […]

End-of-the-year travels have had me on more airplanes, staying in more hotels, eating in more restaurants and visiting more law firm offices than usual. During my travels, I experienced some of the best and some of the worst hospitality imaginable. On one trip, weather and travel delays typical of the season resulted in missed connections, […]

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 […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, from November 2015, was one of last year’s most read posts.   There seems to be a theme with our clients these past few months: change. We have three different clients who recently hired new CMOs, and there are significant changes […]

Wicker Park Group recently had the opportunity to speak with Doug Luftman, the Chief Innovation Officer and General Counsel at Lecorpio. He shared insights on what GCs are looking for from outside counsel and how to develop and strengthen those relationships. Luftman said, “The most valuable thing is outside counsel being savvy about my business and having true […]

The election of Donald Trump as President has sent shock waves around the world. Indeed, the unexpected outcome has created many questions and much uncertainty about what will happen in the next few months and years. What opportunities does this transition of power to a business executive with strong conservative leanings but no government experience […]

Fall is one of our busiest interview seasons at Wicker Park Group. Just last month, I conducted over 30 individual interviews. The companies ranged in size, revenue, region, complexity and legal department sophistication, yet the feedback themes were very consistent and tended to focus on communication. Firms received praise and appreciation for frequent, collaborative, consumable […]

While I was talking to a law firm partner about one of her most significant clients last week, she said, “Every time we have face time with the client, we walk away with several new projects. But that is so hard because we are so busy just managing the work and their complicated financial reporting […]

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 […]

How to Lose a Client

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We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, from October 2015, was one of last year’s most read posts. After twenty years as general counsel of a financial institution and a large medical center, I have heard plenty of complaints from our executives about working with outside counsel. In […]

Every Saturday morning, five baby boomers including myself join together for a 4- to 5-mile run. We’re not fast, but we are committed and make it whenever we can. Four of us work in legal: one is a solo practitioner, two work in different mid-size firms and me (the token business development consultant). Bob, the […]

Wayne Gretzky is famous for being one of the greatest hockey players in history. He is also known for inspiring thousands with his quotes. One of my favorite Gretzky quotes is: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” It is simple but incredibly powerful and exactly […]

I recently had the opportunity to perform my civic duty as a juror. While the timing was inconvenient and the case not all that interesting, the experience provided a great perspective on the dramatic impact of strong communication and meeting facilitation skills. The case was relatively short, and there were only three witnesses called. The […]

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 […]

In my work over the past year with individual associates and partners on client business development, I have noticed several common themes that are worth sharing: 1. In law practice client development, many lawyers are asking for a business development “template” to simply read and follow. To that, I repeat our mantra: “One size fits […]

One of the most important and sometimes overlooked skills associates need to perfect is the ability to lead/facilitate a variety of group meetings and discussions. Presentations to practice and industry group colleagues, pitches to prospects and business meetings with clients are just a few of the more common situations that demand effective leadership/facilitation skills. Leading […]

I recently conducted an interview that reminded me of one of my favorite client feedback interview experiences and the importance of knowing your clients’ legal budgets. As part of the interview process, we always conduct a prep interview with the relationship lawyer and key individuals working with the client. We ask about the history of […]

We will periodically revisit some of Wicker Park Group’s most popular blog posts. This one, from November 2015, was one of last year’s most read posts.   “While our attorney conveys knowledge and supervises other attorneys, we don’t see a successor. But we don’t see one in any law firm. There is no incentive to do […]

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 […]

I began my legal career like the majority of law school graduates—by joining a law firm as a fresh-faced associate. My primary job responsibilities were to represent the firm’s financial institution clients in litigation matters. I had no assigned business development duties other than to keep our clients happy with our legal services. After twelve […]

Early in my law firm marketing career, I held an in-house position at a Pacific Northwest law firm of approximately 150 lawyers. I was asked to speak at the firm retreat. I shaped my presentation around the basics: Focus on relationships, distinguish yourself through client service and always be responsive. As I opened the floor […]

As mentioned in a recent blog post, we at Wicker Park Group love to read and love to share favorites with each other and with clients. Amid the many excellent books that address the client experience, we picked one particularly standout book to share with clients this year: Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman. Zombie Loyalists […]

Books to Inspire

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Summer reading has remained an ingrained habit from school days. At WPG, we are all avid readers and share book recommendations across genres. We read everything from current bestsellers and biographies to cookbooks and of course business books. Our 2016 summer reading focus at WPG has been on understanding the “client experience,” and we’ve all […]

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 […]

Last week, a friend of mine here in New Orleans asked me for a referral for a good internal medicine physician. Being a corporate lawyer by training and practice, I don’t know which internal medicine physicians have the best skills and experience. But I do know from personal experience which doctors sincerely care about my […]

Part Two in a series devoted to presentation skills. Read the previous post on teaching presentation skills here.  I am a devoted fan of National Public Radio and suspect many who are reading this post also find their news stories both informative and memorable. Nina Totenberg, who covers the Supreme Court, is a particular favorite of mine. […]

One of our more popular blog posts last year talked about the importance of actively listening to clients in a world of many distractions. We quoted author Sherry Turkle’s observations about putting away your cell phone to invest in the conversation and connect. But what about when you’re not in person but talking on the […]

At the recent Client Experience in Professional Services conference in Durham, North Carolina, Stan Phelps shared his insights about winning the hearts of customers and influencing positive word of mouth. Phelps is the author of What’s Your Purple Goldfish?, and his crowd-sourced stories resonated with the audience of engineering, design, architectural, construction, legal and financial […]

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 […]

Law firms love meetings. And in most law firms, meetings are ineffective because of broken structures, focus and outcomes. Let’s point out of the obvious: Firms ask individuals who are the busiest, the most critical to the firm’s success and often the most productive to attend too many meetings. Firms conduct a significant number of […]

Whether the situation calls for a young associate to explain the applicability of a new statute to colleagues, a partner to present a client proposal or an industry group chair to deliver the keynote address at a conference, all lawyers must be able to deliver an effective group presentation. Indeed, the ability to prepare for […]

Bloomberg recently published an article on the exhaustion many consumers are feeling about the plethora of customer satisfaction surveys they face. The piece attributes the steady increase in quick surveys to a number of factors including a growing interest in utilizing customer feedback to improve services and the ease of reaching customers via email and […]

“When I select attorneys to handle a matter, I really look for a team. I want the leader to be familiar with the case and giving people direction. I don’t expect him to get in the nitty-gritty from day one, but you do really need a very smart guy to be in the details and […]

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 my career, I have had the opportunity to be general counsel for a bank holding company, a large state medical center and a state bar association. Each entity was different in terms of its leadership and operating procedures. However, there were certain common principles that guided outside counsel selection. Keep these mandates in mind […]

We play and watch games throughout our lives. Own a frequent flyer card? You qualify as a player. Buy an occasional lottery ticket? Play recreational sports or video games? Yep, you’re a player. Games are everywhere in our culture, and they can be an effective tool to help lawyers succeed at business development. After all, […]

Many of you are aware that I was in the CMO role for over a decade. It was not without its challenges, and there were moments when it felt like pushing a boulder up a hill, but I really loved the position. I loved being in the hot seat to drive innovation and growth, seeing […]

As the weather warms, I find myself wanting to do household spring-cleaning chores while also dreading the effort. I long for a day to pack away winter coats and make room for lighter, brighter clothes in the closet, to replace storm windows with screens and to clean outdoor furniture in preparation of porch sitting. Then […]

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 long after I made the move from law firm practice to general counsel at a Texas financial institution, I observed that the senior executives at our holding company (the key decisionmakers) all had internal people within the bank who served as “coaches.” These coaches were not the ultimate decisionmakers within the bank regarding projects […]

In some businesses, clients view their lawyers as impediments to making things happen. Those clients often work with outside counsel who throw up roadblocks and tell them why something won’t work instead of seeking a solution to the challenge. The roadblocks can be anything from regulatory hurdles to plain old risk aversion or analysis paralysis. […]

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 […]

One of the most challenging jobs any general counsel encounters is guiding the company through litigation-related decisions. This process involves determining the company’s goals in the disputed matter, setting any budgeting constraints, choosing outside litigation counsel, assessing how much control and personal involvement in-house counsel and management want in the litigation, keeping company management informed […]

You’ve recruited good candidates for business development, and they’ve participated in a productive group training program. So what’s the next step to success? After participating in the group program, your lawyers are ready for one-on-one coaching sessions in order to adapt what they’ve learned and make it relevant to their individual practices. One-on-one sessions work […]

Business Development coaching takes time. It takes money. And it takes a lot of effort and dedication on the part of the firm, the coach and the lawyer. Ideally, firms are confident from the outset that the investment in coaching is worthwhile and the coaching candidates will take advantage of the opportunities. Otherwise, everyone ends […]

How much time do you typically spend each month seeking new clients? If you’re like many other firm lawyers, you are devoting great blocks of time to RFPs, speaking engagements, industry conferences, entertainment and much more in an effort to develop new client relationships. All of those activities are valuable and important, but you are […]

January 17 has been designated Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day because that is about how long most people who make resolutions actually stick with them. According to research conducted by Statistic Brain, only 8% of resolution makers are successful with their resolutions. That’s a pretty sad success rate. According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology […]

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, […]

Alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) are often studied, often debated and only sometimes tried. But with clients becoming more sophisticated in their choice of outside counsel and use of fee arrangements, you need to be prepared to answer this question: “Can we use an alternative fee arrangement rather than hourly billing in the matter your firm […]

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 […]

As you kick off 2016, consider a few fresh training exercises for use at firm retreats or other gatherings. Experiential, active training has become a top priority for law schools and is also highly valuable in the development of a lawyer’s skills regardless of age or experience level. For law firms, interactive application exercises can […]

Towards the end of the year, our interview schedules slow down and we spend our days developing new content, cleaning up files and planning for the New Year. It is a great time to reflect and focus. A recent week of events made me realize the value of something we often take for granted: The […]

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 […]

In my annual year-end scramble to obtain the required Continuing Legal Education credits, I attended a GC panel hosted by our local Legal Marketing Association. As the moderator asked the panel members questions about how they purchase legal services, the same response came up over and over: Relationships are the key. Early in the discussion […]

Firing in Slow Motion

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Rare is the in-house counsel who will swiftly and directly confront outside counsel about minor annoyances or even major frustrations. While there are exceptions, most clients just don’t have the time, bandwidth or interest to proactively offer course corrections. Many attorneys are by nature conflict averse and indirect. So if you aren’t picking up on […]

I believe many—if not most—lawyers choose to attend law school in part because they hate the idea of having to sell something. They go to law school to learn about the complex system of laws and rules and the subtleties of the practice of law. The thought of selling yourself, your practice group or your […]

Earlier this year, a CMO friend asked for help designing and delivering a two-hour session on business development at the annual women partners’ retreat. Business development had been a topic at every retreat for a number of years with mixed success, so the CMO, Tara Weintritt and I decided to identify five influential women partners […]

There seems to be a theme with our clients these past few months: change. We have three different clients who recently hired new CMOs, and there are significant changes in the managing partner and chairman roles of law firms. Furthermore, we have conducted quite a few interviews with individuals who are new to their company […]

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