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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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

“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 it.”   Succession planning is one of those recurring issues that Wicker Park Group hears about regularly while conducting client feedback interviews. Whether due to a […]

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” […]

How to Lose a Client

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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 my opinion, some complaints were justified and some were not. Here is a list of the most common (justified) complaints I heard over those two […]

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 […]

Remember this saying? “Don’t ASSUME. It makes an ass out of you and me.” It’s a little childish and possibly not appropriate for a business blog, but it seems to be a consistent theme of our work lately and one worth considering. After almost 20 years in this industry, I am still shocked at how […]

Put the Phone Away

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“That lawyer does not take on each problem by rote but brings a renewed activism and discipline to the need to find the solution. That lawyer ‘listens’ rather than just ‘hears.’” –Client interviewed by Wicker Park Group     While hearing and listening both require using our ears, the words have very different meanings. Listening […]

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 […]

In the process of preparing for client interviews, we often get asked to obtain the opinions, interest or perceived value of the firm’s newsletters. It is a good question and worth asking given how much time your firm, staff and lawyers spend writing articles. To be candid, the answers range. Many interviewees cannot recall if […]

I recently attended a meeting of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) at the new PIRCH store in Atlanta to learn more about how the appliance store has created a customer-centric culture and earned a top 25 spot on the Forbes list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” Granted, PIRCH offers $48,000 custom French ovens in […]

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, […]

During client interviews and conversations, we often hear about the importance of working with lawyers who are trusted advisors: “I think he is viewed as such a trusted advisor, colleague and partner that he will be very helpful to us as we navigate the changes.” “The firm feels like a trusted advisor. Others, on the […]

Telling a great story is often the difference between being listened to and being heard. In law firms, you are potentially telling a great story whether you are pitching to a client, negotiating compensation or winning over leadership in the quest for resources and support. Outside of law firms we tell stories for many reasons, including […]

If you ask most legal marketing professionals about their top pain point and/or worst use of resources, lawyer rankings and awards always rise to the top. They are growing in popularity and awareness, and the time demands to do them well are considerable. However, despite the thousands of interviews Wicker Park Group has conducted over […]

“In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors’ offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out.” […]

It was my second week as the bank holding company’s newly minted general counsel, and I walked into my CEO’s office late in the afternoon with one question: “What type of general counsel do you want me to be for you?” Without missing a beat, my new boss answered quickly with two words: ”No surprises!” […]

I’ve conducted quite a few interviews recently where the client contact was previously an associate at the firm. It creates an interesting dynamic and is something very important to consider as the marketplace and industry evolve. Years ago, lawyers “grew up” in firms. They entered as associates, climbed the corporate ladder and then became partners. […]

Before I traveled extensively for work, I ignored the pre-flight intercom banter of promotions for those flying as part of the airline’s frequent flyer program. On average, I flew less than a dozen times a year, some for work but mostly for leisure, and I always shopped by price and convenience to the location. Now […]

Recently, I interviewed an assistant general counsel for a large global organization, a man who has spent 30 years working both within law firms and as in-house counsel. His range of positions and experiences give him far-reaching perspective on the evolution of the legal industry, current trends and the ways in which firms are (and […]

Restaurateur Danny Meyer has been delighting diners in New York City since he opened Union Square Cafe in 1985. Thirty years and 15 restaurant concepts later, he and his team at Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) have perfected the art of “enlightened hospitality.” Their mission is simple: “To delight our guests through such unparalleled hospitality, […]

More likely than not, you gave or received a valentine this weekend. It may have been wildly extravagant or the simplest of gestures, but regardless you made or were made to feel special, cared about, valued and loved. A couple I admire attributes the longevity and happiness of their 50-plus-year marriage to treating every day […]

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 […]

Value is in the eye of the beholder. In our legal services world, that means it is the client’s perception of value—not the lawyer’s—that matters. We can only demonstrate the value of our legal services if we understand what is important to our clients and what specifically they deem valuable. Wicker Park’s client feedback interviews […]

Defining Responsiveness

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A few weeks ago, I participated in a law firm practice group retreat. In preparation for the meeting, I spoke to the practice group leader about his goals for the group’s time together and specifically my program on client opinions, preferences and trends in client feedback. A bit skeptical of consultants in general, he was […]

“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 […]

Everyone utilizes all three styles of communication—visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Yet more often than not, one communication style is dominant. Repeated studies have found that the general US population is 70% visual, 20% auditory and 10% kinesthetic, whereas lawyers are 20% visual learners, 70% auditory and 10% kinesthetic. Why is this important to us as lawyers? […]

Here at WPG, Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. It allows for cherished time with friends and family. Most of us, at least in the United States, are able to slow down, take a few days away from the office and be grateful for our many blessings. We overindulge in home-cooked food, embrace family […]

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 […]

Our partner, Nat Slavin, recently had the privilege of moderating the general counsel panel at the LMA West Legal Marketing Technology Conference for the third time. The panelists were brutally candid in their assessments of how to strengthen relationships with in-house counsel, and we thought it was worth sharing their insights. Panel Kendra Clark, VP, […]

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, […]

The ABA conducted a study of client concerns and expectations a few years ago and found that the four greatest expectations clients have for outside counsel, in order of importance, are commitment, integrity, competence and fee issues. While none of these factors are surprising, it is worth noting that “commitment” holds the top spot. We […]

Easy Living

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One of the phrases we hear most frequently in client feedback interviews is “Make my life easier.” Clients often describe that as the key to their most successful outside counsel relationships, and at other times they express that wish for broken relationships. But what does it really mean and how can we put it into […]

Mistakes…

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 “Mistakes will be made. If you make a mistake, figure out what you did, own up to it, figure out how to correct it and then learn from it so you don’t repeat it. In my mind, a successful lawyer or successful employee is one who knows how to take that mistake and make a […]

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 […]

5 Key Questions for GCs

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As a former general counsel, I’ve been on the other side of the outside counsel/client relationship and learned a lot about what works and what really doesn’t work. While it should come as no surprise that effective communication is essential to that relationship, it is easy to forget how differently lawyers and C-suite executives tend […]

The Happy Factor

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Is happiness key to building successful relationships and developing business?  This is a relationship business. We have all heard the phrase hundreds of times. However, creating those relationships is easier said than done for a profession that attracts and/or creates introverts (57% of lawyers versus 25% of the general population) and praises thinkers (78% of […]

We all love to walk out of a client interview with a zinger: a big relationship problem, a previously hidden opportunity in a new area or a major client challenge we can solve. In fact, some clients don’t think their client feedback programs are effective unless there are big surprises at every turn. The reality […]

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 […]

Lawyers, for reasons of training and otherwise, often use different language than that used by business people and clients. Words are powerful, and you don’t want to put off or frustrate your clients because you’re not speaking the same language. Use these examples as a reminder of how to tweak your word choices to the […]

We spend our days interviewing very smart, interesting people from every business imaginable. And while each interview is unique, almost every client cares deeply about three questions in particular. Positioning yourself to be the answer to these three questions will put you on the path to building trusted, long-lasting partnerships and standing well above the […]

The majority of clients interviewed by Wicker Park Group have significantly more praise for their outside counsel than criticism. In fact, most complaints about law firm relationships typically result from failing to manage client expectations or other common communication breakdowns. On those rare occasions when you do receive surprising negative feedback, it is always better […]

As an active member of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and a member of our local ACC Board, I attend many events where participants discuss how to work well with outside counsel. As Wicker Park Group’s own GC, I feel like I am standing on both sides of the fence as a GC for […]

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 […]

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