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All posts tagged Building Relationships

This post was originally published in November 2014, but the tips are still relevant and valuable as we enter into the final weeks of the year. Happy Thanksgiving from Wicker Park Group! Here at WPG, Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. It allows for cherished time with friends and family. Most of us, at […]

Last week, I taught a public speaking class to a group of five first-year associates at a mid-sized law firm. All of the associates were fast approaching—or initially enjoying—their 30s. They were smart, energetic and happy to be in a reputable firm with a good-paying position to help defray law school debt. As we reflected […]

Those readers familiar with Wicker Park Group are aware of our key theme in 2017: Adding Value. For those of you new to the concept, adding value is one of the most important qualities necessary to building long-term, trusting, meaningful client relationships. Clients routinely mention adding value as one of the key differentiators of their […]

As firms plan for 2018, we spend a lot of time talking with existing law firm clients as well as those that are (finally) prepared to launch a formal client feedback program. As part of that conversation (and even in formal RFPs), we are asked to share our philosophy on client feedback. Our philosophy can […]

This is the third of three posts on introductions. In our first post, we focused on introduction fundamentals of effective in-person introductions. Introductions are personal, positive and connective. They build goodwill with very little effort.  Most rainmakers are good networkers, in no small part because they know how to connect people through introductions. Introductions are […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

“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 […]

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 […]

We often hear that business development is a contact sport, and there is validity to that comment. The more face-to-face interaction you have with current and potential clients, the more likely you are to be at the top of their lists when they need legal services. However, when we at Wicker Park Group work with […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

There is an old Peanuts comic strip featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy that resonated with me when I began working with professionals on business development for the first time. In it, Lucy—the psychiatrist who is “IN”—is trying to help a befuddled Charlie Brown get his life in order. Lucy says to Charlie: “Life is like […]

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. […]

As a young lawyer, I (like many others) assumed legal expertise was the fundamental prerequisite to a successful legal career. Certainly, you aren’t going to be considered for selection without it. But as we all now know, there are many, many places to find competent legal work. You must offer a lot more than that […]

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 […]

In its 2014 “Global Trust in Advertising” report, market research giant Nielson Company found that 92% of consumers worldwide trust recommendations over all other forms of advertising. That is up 18% since 2007. Based on Wicker Park Group’s body of client feedback interviews from the same time period, it is likely that an even higher […]

Early in my tenure as in-house counsel, I learned that our company possessed eight key decision criteria reflecting our company’s core values. We used those criteria as we began consolidating our outside legal work to fewer law firms.  Those eight key decision criteria were: The firm’s relationship to us (including years of service to our […]

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, […]

In law school, they don’t teach you to work in teams. In fact, most of the programs are designed to encourage competition with your classmates. However, when you enter the workplace and as your career evolves, some of your most important and interesting work will depend on your ability to provide excellent legal services as […]

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 […]

Interpersonal Skills: The Foundation for Strong Relationships In this multi-part series, we explore the basics of creating an integrated business development training curriculum. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  Developing a successful client relationship often requires lawyers to pass what we will refer to as the “chemistry test,” a visceral combination of requirements, […]

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 […]

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