Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What Do You Say to In House Counsel to Make Them Want to Give You Work?

(thanks to thenonbillablehour

Vivia Chen writes a simple yet telling piece on how not to blow the dream date when outside counsel are asked to meet in house counsel to win a mandate and client.

Based on the thoughts of Nino Cusimano, GC for Telecom Italia, it seems all so straightforward why anyone would mess it up, but they do. He says
that he's often shocked at how lawyers flub the first meeting and blow their chance at getting business. "I am often left with the impression that close to zero preparation time has been put into the [initial] meeting," he writes in CC. "Time after time, I find myself thinking, 'What a wasted opportunity these meetings can be.'"
Preparation--always crucial so why wouldn't you do it? If I have a PhD student about to have his viva, I will prepare him so he knows what kinds of questions to expect and to understand what the atmosphere will be like. It's intense. That requires preparation.

So what would be the most important thing to know? What your prospective client does? What is the business?
Research the client. Incredibly, says Cusimano, aspiring legal providers often show only the most rudimentary familiarity with his company, "which basically means no familiarity." He suggests a crash course on the company's filings, corporate governance policies, management, products, and market. "Research our interests, the current focus agenda for the legal department, all in a few easy clicks. Google us and read about the major litigations we are engaged in."
That hurts. And following on from yesterday's post on reverse auctions, Cusimano states
Be up-front about fees. "We will describe to you our legal-vendor rating process. I will look for constructive comments on it. Be frank. I would be happy to know what sorts of innovative fee structures you're using with clients—a few examples will come in handy."
There's more but it all seems so obvious that I wonder why it has to be said at all. Perhaps it is part because we train lawyers to argue but not always listen. To listen and respond--simple, effective, and apparently sometimes difficult.

So to put in a blatant plug, Law Without Walls (LWOW) will be commencing its second season in the near future. LWOW insists on its students and faculty work together across cultural and geographical boundaries. This forces one to listen. Under these conditions one can't do it half-heartedly: it takes commitment. This is one of the reasons why LWOW has scored great successes.

In its next iteration it has added Stanford, Indiana-Bloomington, St Gallen, and Sydney universities to its roster. Given that LWOW now wraps the world, to have everyone online at a particular time is fraught. When we start I'm going online at 10pm...



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