The answer to the question is: One size fits one.
Every client is different and has different needs. While anyone can generalize about the legal industry as whole, the reality is that clients come in all shapes and sizes: big companies and small, public and private, with in-house counsel and without, empowered clients with vast experience, industry experts as talented and up to speed on the law as the most senior partner as well as true generalists who intensely rely on their trusted advisors to look out for them.
Last year I spoke with nearly 150 law firm clients doing one-on-one in-person interviews and some said they love to see the client alerts so they can choose which topics and ideas interest them. Others said that they only look at alerts that have a preamble from the firm/partner explaining why they should read. Most often, they said that timeliness matters, but even the most timely alert doesn’t have an immediate time-sensitive impact on how they job (read: Does that alert speak to a contemporaneous issue the company is facing? And if so, why is someone not picking up the phone and calling the client the moment it happens?).
The reality is that making gross generalizations about how a universe wants information based on any panel discussion or a narrow set of experiences is dangerous; it may serve the needs of one client to the severe detriment of another.
It would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t have skin in the game. I believe there is no more important activity than taking the time to understand and meet the clients needs, so I spend my time making sure that happens. But I also think it is preposterous to try and up with a simple, single solution to solving the conundrum of what “communication” form is the magic bullet. It takes a wide-ranging communication strategy to have meaningful impact. For every client that refuses to admit that they look at client alerts (but comments disparagingly at the absence of said alerts) there is a general counsel who actively tests her firms by communicating with her outside counsel via twitter (true story, and she is over 40).
Thanks for sparking the debate. Let’s all go and talk to our clients and see how we can make them look good!