Clients Want YOU to Initiate Conversations

This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

Content creators and marketers need to look at their analytics regularly, and my data tells me my posts on “What In-House Counsel Want” are uniformly well read and shared. So, here’s my take on the Silicon Valley GC panel I attended last month regarding their likes and dislikes. The main themes:

  1. Engage with me on my terms, in my intellectual space, with my needs in mind.

  2. Ask me what I value in terms of a relationship, engagement goals, and fees.

  3. Do not bullshit me about diversity, and don’t make me work with assholes, even if they are brilliant.

I can tell you from covering these events for years now that GCs are increasingly frustrated, and are becoming more strident in voicing their complaints. The panel at the LMA annual conference in Las Vegas this year was like an anger management support group riff. The impression I get is that these panels allow venting that doesn’t happen in discussions with their outside legal vendors—because outside counsel don’t initiate these conversations. And that adds to the frustration on the in-house side.

Even Linus knows it's best to ask what the client wants.

None of us want angry clients. I have begged clients to conduct client feedback exercises in an attempt to confirm a hunch I had about how the firm was being perceived in the marketplace. Some were afraid to do so—even with clients with which they felt they had rock-solid relationships. It’s like people who are afraid to find out something about themselves if they go into therapy. Here’s the thing: that element is there regardless of whether you choose to identify or address it. Do you need to hire a client satisfaction survey firm? At least investigate the possibilities. What’s important, even if it isn’t perfect, is to talk. At every panel, GCs answer a wide variety of queries with “just ask.” They want to talk about these topics. It’s far easier for them for you to engage than for them to bring up the topic (and it’s all about the client, right?). Bottom line: Clients want to go into couples therapy to fine-tune their relationships with outside counsel. Provide them that opportunity. (Just don’t make them pay for it.) For more granular details on what Valley in-house counsel want, see my JD Supra post here.

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