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Commentary: Keys to winning over in-house counsel

By: DOLAN MEDIA NEWSWIRES//March 31, 2014//

Commentary: Keys to winning over in-house counsel

By: DOLAN MEDIA NEWSWIRES//March 31, 2014//

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By Matthew Prinn and Katie Reagan
Dolan Media Newswires

Keys-to-winning-over-in-house-counselWhen selecting legal counsel, corporate counsel consider likability to be a key factor. But what qualities — aside from courtroom victories — make a lawyer more likable?

While some of the following tips may seem obvious, they also are easily overlooked. The key is striking the right balance.

Be a good communicator

How do potential clients prefer to be contacted? It’s no small matter.

Some will avoid potentially dragging phone conversations at all cost, but will answer by email posthaste. Others will ignore, delete or simply miss an email altogether. Do clients like regular check-ins or prefer to communicate only on an as-needed basis?

Clients prefer working with lawyers who know how best — and how often — to contact them. Be able to identify and incorporate your clients’ preferred methods of communication into your legal service model.

Although there will never be a “one size fits all” approach, focus on creating one that best matches your clients’ preferences.

Be honest

Be upfront with your clients about your experience and your firm’s capabilities. If you are unable to assist a client with a particular need, help to track down a referral.

Although you may not be engaged on that one particular matter, your client will realize that you’re trustworthy and invested in the client’s business.

Understand the client’s business and industry

Understand how your legal matters affect a client’s larger business strategy.

Ask probing questions to learn the key priorities of the company. Be on the lookout for legal issues that may impact those plans.

Follow industry trends and monitor not only the client’s news, but key competitors’ news. Such a task can be accomplished easily by setting up Google alerts to keep you abreast of current events.

Be a connector

Think of ways to expand your client’s network. Introduce contacts who are in similar industries and positions or who may face similar challenges and issues.

Think like the client

Make sure you are on the same page with the client from the very beginning. Have the client define at the outset the expected deliverable for each project.

Be budget-conscious

While many lawyers realize the importance of alerting clients if they’re likely to go over budget, the same can be said if the project will come in under budget. By notifying them in advance, they may be able to reallocate money to other parts of their budgets.

Be fun to work with

Clients realize that they’ll be spending a significant amount of time with whomever they hire for a particular project. In situations already fraught with tension, a dismal conference-room atmosphere can serve as the final, miserable straw.

Projecting a good energy level and positive outlook can at least eliminate the dread of the daily meeting.

Be their cheerleader

Think of ways to make your clients look good.

Nominate them for awards. Ask them to participate in panel discussions or to present to your colleagues.

Their visibility in the legal community will increase, and they’ll have you to thank.

Be able to adapt

Issue quick and easy client feedback surveys. They will enable the client to communicate areas for improvement.

Develop questions that will elicit honest feedback and questions that will help you adapt your service model. Once the results are in hand, be sure to make any necessary changes quickly. Let your clients know their voices were heard.

Strive to be a lawyer who corporate counsel not only view as an asset, but genuinely like having around.

Matthew Prinn is director of business development at Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates LLP and a former president of the Legal Market Association, New England chapter. Katie Reagan is business development and communications manager in the Boston office of Jones Day.


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