All posts tagged Managing Expectations

For many clients, the real first impression of outside counsel comes during the firm onboarding process. And unfortunately, many firms squander this incredible opportunity. Beyond checking for conflicts and signing an engagement letter, client onboarding is a chance to set the right tone as the work begins. A formalized onboarding process goes a long way […]

After 30 years of interviewing in-house counsel and other clients about their law firm relationships, two words define the best client relationships: manage expectations. Managing expectations flows through every aspect of what clients want, need and expect from outside counsel. It’s also the key to high-functioning teams of lawyers working collaboratively to achieve a goal […]

Clients will always tell their outside counsel what they want. All you have to do is ask. That’s the thesis we have been operating under at Wicker Park Group for the last 15 years. So, as we approach the end of the year, and in the spirit of this giving season, here are six tips […]

Wicker Park Group periodically revisits some of its most popular blog posts. This post was first published in August 2021. There is never a bad time to talk about rates, but early Fall is the best time to discuss it with clients. In recent weeks, we have had many conversations with general counsel about their perspective on […]

Effective communication is the essential ingredient for successful relationships, and we are excited to have Jeff Deery, a partner at Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman, share some tips for providing clarity, assurance, and understanding when communicating with clients. In his classic rock masterpiece, Space Oddity, singer David Bowie tells the story of astronaut Major Tom. As […]

In recent interviews, I have noticed a common thread around the value of practical advice. While excellent legal counsel and niche expertise are important (and expected), clients often highlight when outside counsel deliver practical advice. Clients rave and value lawyers who can take complex legal issues and offer succinct, practical business advice. A recent client […]

In 2020, Wicker Park Group launched ClienTELL. Law firms on the platform are creating robust customization to analyze their own client feedback and using sentiment analysis to identify what drives firm, industry and practice loyalty. They are also tracking key components of client service from their own client perspective. As we look at the broader […]

2021 was a banner year for most law firms. Billable hours were at an all-time high, lawyers did not lose time traveling or commuting, and client demand was off the charts for most practice groups. Lawyers worked intense, long hours, and many were heavily rewarded because of it. But the practice of law today is […]

There is never a bad time to talk about rates, but early Fall is the best time to discuss it with clients. In recent weeks, we have had many conversations with general counsel about their perspective on the how, when and why law firms talk to them about rates. In our client feedback interviews, we […]

Every year I play the same game with my cable company. On my renewal anniversary, they take away the discounts and give me the double whammy of a service rate increase. I then spend the next 30 minutes to an hour on the phone finding the right person in “customer retention,” which is really just […]

Last week, I shared five tips to come out of a recent client panel. As I said in the previous post, most client panels cover well-worn client service topics. But there’s a reason the same topics get discussed: In-house lawyers continue to seek outside counsel who don’t just provide the necessary work but who proactively […]

I suspect I have listened to and/or facilitated over 50 client panels in the last fifteen years. While some of the themes have evolved over the years, it always surprises me how consistent the messages are no matter the industry, age/background of the in-house counsel or size of the company. Given my extensive exposure to […]

“The partner made heroic efforts to step in and get things back on track and make things right. I appreciate the appropriate modifications being made quickly and was pleased with the outcome. That [frustrating experience] did not affect my willingness or inclination to use or recommend the firm in the future.” As we’ve written about […]

Many of you have probably attended a school orientation meeting recently. We moved our college sophomore into her dorm this weekend ahead of most students’ arrival because she will be part of the freshman orientation leadership team. This private liberal arts school does a really remarkable job of preparing hundreds of wide-eyed 18- and 19-year-olds […]

I’ve worked with about 100 firms in the last 12 years, primarily around client feedback, and there is one most important element to the entire feedback process: what the firm does to act on the feedback. In order to effectively act on the feedback, firms must: Engage the client Involve other parties as needed Clearly […]

Wicker Park Group periodically revisits some of our most popular blog posts. This post originally appeared in April 2017. 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 […]

While preparing for the recent three-part blog posts on retirement and client succession planning, I reached out to the Wicker Park Partners for their advice on the best ways for a senior partner to transfer client responsibility to a junior or mid-level partner. Not surprisingly, they emphasized the critical importance of client participation in the process. […]

This is the third post in a three-part series on succession planning. You can find the first post here and the second post here.  Many senior lawyers are not receptive to the notion of retirement, which makes the succession/transfer of clients to younger partners difficult to say the least. As I noted in a previous […]

This is the second post in a three-part series on succession planning. The first post was published in May. When is the best time to retire? It’s a complicated question with no cookie-cutter answers. Timing may be the most important ingredient in a successful retirement—and client transfer—recipe. This is particularly true for law firms. Many […]

Tara Weintritt, Partner, Wicker Park Group Daniel H. Weintraub, Managing Director and General Counsel, Audax Group Here at Wicker Park Group, we have been interviewing clients on behalf of law firms for over a decade. The feedback has evolved after more than 3,000 interviews, but the core messages are similar. Clients want you to spend […]

This is the first post in a three-part series on succession planning. I’m currently working with a young partner at a Midwest firm of 300+ attorneys. Her business development plans include what she calls her “inheritance strategy.” As the name implies, she is working with a senior partner to acquire his clients when he retires. Yet, […]

We’ve been traveling to see our clients a lot this spring, and I’ve been averaging two cities a week for a few weeks now. Last week, I noticed a change. There were more families, more packs of unaccompanied young people wearing college party t-shirts, more suntans and more frustrated business travelers navigating around people stopping […]

As some of you know, my family has undertaken a fairly extensive home construction project that involves digging out a basement and adding 1,400 square feet of livable space. The selection process for choosing our architect, builder and finishing crew reminded me of how in-house counsel talk about their selection of outside counsel. We asked […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

How to Lose a Client


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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

In early December, I was talking to a law firm senior associate about his successes for the year and goal setting for next year and made the obvious comment about the rush to get in hours for the year. He responded, “Oh, I hit my hours last month so now I can coast.” I don’t […]

“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 […]

How to Lose a Client


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 […]

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 […]

It was my second week as the bank holding company’s newly minted general counsel, and I walked into my CEO’s office late in the afternoon with one question: “What type of general counsel do you want me to be for you?” Without missing a beat, my new boss answered quickly with two words: ”No surprises!” […]

Defining Responsiveness


A few weeks ago, I participated in a law firm practice group retreat. In preparation for the meeting, I spoke to the practice group leader about his goals for the group’s time together and specifically my program on client opinions, preferences and trends in client feedback. A bit skeptical of consultants in general, he was […]

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 […]

We can all benefit from revisiting the essential expectations clients have of outside counsel. Even though none of this is groundbreaking, it’s too easy for outside counsel to get lost in the weeds of day-to-day work and forget about the most important expectations they must meet. Take a moment to reflect on how well you’d […]

For those firms that have not yet notified their clients of their intentions to increase rates after the first of the year, it’s already too late. Not every company budgets on a calendar year annual basis, but for those that do, that process is nearly complete by mid-October. In-house counsel typically draft budgets in September, […]

Easy Living


One of the phrases we hear most frequently in client feedback interviews is “Make my life easier.” Clients often describe that as the key to their most successful outside counsel relationships, and at other times they express that wish for broken relationships. But what does it really mean and how can we put it into […]



 “Mistakes will be made. If you make a mistake, figure out what you did, own up to it, figure out how to correct it and then learn from it so you don’t repeat it. In my mind, a successful lawyer or successful employee is one who knows how to take that mistake and make a […]

We often preach the importance of managing clients’ expectations—it’s a common theme explored in our client feedback interview work. Managing expectations takes many forms and often relates to deadlines, budgets, project plans, news and updates. But managing expectations starts long before that and is often about clear communication more than anything else. Set an agenda […]

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 […]

While there continues to be much debate about the impact of the ACC’s Value Challenge in the U.S. market, there is no doubt that demonstrating value in key client relationships with law firms (and all clients for that matter) is critical. The Association of Corporate Counsel has announced that they are expanding the Value Challenge to Europe and created […]

At a recent Legal Marketing Association panel discussion on Social Media, I was struck by how much the conversation focused on what law firms think they should do about social media without paying attention to their clients. While it is critical that law firms have a plan for social media, including piloting the project, getting attorney buy-in […]

Of all the comments uttered by in-house counsel, this one may be the most universal. In-house counsel are like in-house police: they either bring news that the company has violated or been violated. They have few opportunities to ever get ahead of the curve, to be a partner in managing the company’s risk, in championing […]

In recent conversations with several in-house counsel, most are (unsurprisingly) revealing that they are freezing rates paid to counsel in 2009. What’s interesting is two-fold: 1. Many are not proactively notifying their outside counsel, but rather waiting to see if their outside counsel will actually raise rates in 2009, and notify them of the increase […]

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