What General Counsels Want from Law Firm Marketing

law firm marketing, marketing directorVisit the new August issue of Originate! - the business development newsletter, to read a very specific list of marketing pointers in-house lawyers Carolyn H. Clift, Esq. and Verlyn Suderman, Esq.  According to the duo, there are 7 specific things that law firms should know about so they can get corporate legal work.

Here's the beginning of the article. To see the whole article visit www.pbdi.org/Originate/ -- it's the lead article.

What do general counsels want from outside lawyers?

Imagine you are a general counsel or other person responsible for purchasing decisions for legal services. Then reflect on how your performance is evaluated in terms of the work product of your team. You’ll realize that your criteria for selection and retention of help from outside counsel will include: 

  • Strong technical competence
  • Cost-consciousness
  • Results-orientation
  • Responsiveness
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity
  • Diversity
  • Business acumen

And that implies these seven criteria for selecting our outside counsel.

1. Just OK can be good enough

Verlyn: The lawyers I engage must have a level of experience and competence in the area of law involved. I will not hire a lawyer or firm to handle something outside of their area of specialization, no matter how highly I think of that lawyer or firm. But the level of experience and competence I look for is highly dependent on the particular situation. Because it’s generally true that the very best lawyers cost the most, I don’t often seek out the very best lawyers. The work we don’t handle in-house is primarily employment and commercial litigation, with some real estate, transactional, or IP work thrown in, and most of our litigation is what I would characterize as routine, low-stakes, and/or low-merit. In these limited-exposure cases, I don’t need the sophistication, depth and research capabilities of a top-tier firm – I just need someone with some demonstrated practical experience and a strong business orientation. 

To me, a lawyer with a business orientation will help me create a strategy that produces the desired result at the lowest possible cost. This requires, for instance, a willingness to prepare and file a motion that may not be perfect, but is good enough to accomplish our tactical objectives. This kind of thing is anathema to some large firms I’ve worked with, apparently because they feel anything that has their name on it has to be the best possible quality. Fortunately, many smaller firms understand this, and one benefit of the lawyer glut for people like me is that you can find very capable lawyers with business orientations at smaller firms for half the cost of big-firm representation.

Carolyn: Given the reasons why we engage outside counsel, and based on the skill and technical background, training and knowledge of our staff, we generally look for outside counsel highly recognized in his/her field of subject matter expertise. Strong technical expertise and extraordinary professional competence is a basic requirement for outside counsel. We typically look to counsel who can add value to our complement of in-house talent. We want outside counsel who work well with our internal business partners and express interest in developing solutions to meet the business goals and objectives.  

 GC Checklist:
  • Appropriate level of experience and competence
  • Business results orientation
  • Team player who works well inside
  • Value for money

2. Firm reputation not so important

Carolyn:  As a practical matter, we generally hire attorneys....

For the rest of the free article, visit www.pbdi.org/Originate 

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