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Two Words of Advice from In-House Counsel

As we are about to embark on Thanksgiving and the “season of giving,” we wanted to share a tribute to gratitude and a gift. For those that know me well, it is no secret that I love Thanksgiving. It used to be because we get to slow down and truly enjoy being together, but even in a year where many of us cannot be with family and have been hunkered down for months, I still love the holiday. It is a time of slowing down and reflecting, the beginning of the changing season and an opportunity to focus on gratitude. To me, client feedback interviews share a lot of those wonderful traits.

While some fear what feedback will reveal, we have always viewed it as a true gift. It is a time of reflection for your clients, a time to slow down and truly think about the relationship and—more often than not—a time of gratitude for the relationship, trust and rapport you have built. And just like Thanksgiving, every now and then there are a few crazy, candid moments, but that is what makes it all memorable!

I recently conducted a client feedback interview with an in-house counsel that reminded me of all the Thanksgiving feelings. It was reflective, kind and filled with gratitude but also sage insights. The in-house counsel left me with two memorable takeaways for any outside lawyer.

First: Be more comfortable with the uncomfortable. He shared great examples of how the in-house counsel’s job is to help move the company forward, but far too many lawyers at firms can only operate in “red or green lights” instead of being comfortable accelerating through yellow. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the law or being rogue with your advice. He was talking about being creative, finding yes and being aligned with the goals of the company.

Second: Hire a lawyer with your own money within the first five years of your practice and again later in life if it has been too long. Whether it is for a contract, a family matter or a business issue, he believes that lawyers paying their own money for another lawyer will quickly become more empathetic and thoughtful in how they practice and bill. He suggested that seeing the hourly bills, often for people talking to one another or researching or thinking, will look absurd or inappropriate if you are paying with your own money and will push you to practice and bill differently.

Clients are filled with valuable insights, suggestions and clarity on how you can serve them better. You just need to take the time to ask. This season might be the perfect time to thank them for their partnership and do just that.

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