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All posts tagged Understanding the Client

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 an insightful series of tweets posted by Google Ventures partner Rick Klau a few months ago. Klau, an entrepreneur familiar with the legal marketspace, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

“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.” […]

Interview with Sarah Rosen, Associate Legal Counsel Union Square Hospitality Group Union Square Hospitality Group, founded by Danny Meyer, is the parent company to some of New York City’s most beloved restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke and Shake Shack. The company also includes Union Square Events, a catering and events business, and […]

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

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

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

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 […]

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, […]

Product Knowledge: One Key to Successful Cross-selling In this multi-part series, we explore the basics of creating an integrated business development training curriculum. Read Part 1 here.  My oldest son Jess is a gifted sales professional. The best advice he shared with me? “Dad, if you want to be successful in sales, you must first know […]

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 […]

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

Interview with James Koutras, Senior Corporate Counsel & Secretary Cristal USA Inc. Cristal USA Inc. is a Hunt Valley, Maryland-based manufacturer of titanium dioxide. The company has operations in Illinois, Maryland and Ohio. The parent company, Cristal, operates on five continents and is one of the largest producers of titanium dioxide and a leading producer […]

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? […]

Client Q&A: Joe Benage

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Interview with Joe Benage, Vice President, Insurer and Employer Services Quest Diagnostics Quest Diagnostics provides crucial diagnostic information that supports and enhances decisions people make to improve patients’ health. The company offers a wide range of products and services that benefit patients, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical medical device companies, life insurance companies and employers.   Q: In […]

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 […]

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 […]

Interview with Jim Hutcherson Chief Legal Officer/ VP Human Resources Bahnson, Inc. — An EMCOR Company Bahnson is one of the largest specialty engineering, manufacturing and mechanical contracting firms in the United States specializing in ultra-low freezers and environmental chambers. They provide infrastructure and construction management services to a variety of clients requiring the highest […]

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 […]

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

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

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

Optics Matter

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

We are all struggling to do more with less, watch expenses and make tough choices about how to allocate limited resources. In this time of lay-offs, chapter 11s, business and law firm failures and heightened anxiety across most industries (and personal lives) the way we treat our clients (and employees) can go a long way […]

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

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