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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 an attendee asked, “How do you hire outside counsel?” One GC answered that he uses three criteria for hiring: quality of the work, cost-effectiveness and whether or not he likes the attorney. Longstanding relationships are so important when hiring, whether directly with the lawyer or through a referral source.
When asked about the best way to build relationships, one panelist said, “Come see us and ask what you can do better. And definitely don’t bill for it!” Another panelist answered, “You have to build relationships in the right way and at the right time. If you don’t know the GC, you can’t appeal to them in the right way.”
The general consensus amongst the panelists was that there are several key elements to the professional relationship between inside and outside counsel: responsiveness, keeping the GC in the loop, billing properly, efficiency and controlling costs. However, a strong personal connection is just as important. One panel member said, “If you have a good relationship, a bad result may be easier to handle.”
Take time this year to reach out to the in-house counsel with whom you work and make sure your relationship is sound. It will be time well-spent.