What GCs Really Mean by Client Service?

The number one reason corporate counsel would recommend their law firm to a peer is superior client service, according to the recent BTI’s Most Recommended Law Firms Survey of General Counsel (54% of corporate counsel responses).  However, we hear GCs say over and over again that their needs are not being met by their legal service providers.

GCs want better client service from their outside counsel and they are not shy about proactively demanding that they get such client service or that they will choose to go elsewhere.

So the begging question is “What do GCs mean by client service?”  Based on How Law Firms Climb the BTI Client Service A-Team, “[c]lients always expect more.  Always.”  The law firms that climb the Client Service A-Team ranks are both managing in-house counsel expectations and delivering more, continuously in an ongoing effort.

Furthermore, GCs hire the lawyer and not the law firm when selecting their outside legal service provider.  So, what does a GC want and need from her lawyer?  A trusting and secure relationship.  GCs want client service, meaning it’s all about the client.  In-house counsel need to feel undivided or uncompromised love from their lawyers.  They want to be in a solid and secure client-centric relationship with their outside counsel.

How do you win over your GC through superior client service?

The top qualities GCs look for in a successful client-centric relationship are:

1)     Trust.  As in any relationship, trust is important.  Seems simple, but you have to tirelessly work at gaining your client’s trust by consistently meeting and even better, exceeding expectations.  And be prepared as some clients may have trust issues.

2)     Responsiveness.  Don’t leave your client hanging.  Make them feel secure and important in the relationship by being responsive.  As one in-house counsel summed it up, “When I contact you, I want to hear from as soon as possible.  Immediate is perfect.  Two hours is great.  Longer than 24 hours is not acceptable.”

3)     Best in the League.  Be the expert in your practice area and on top of your game.  Your GC wants confidence in you that you can not only do the job, but do it very well.  “We expect that outside counsel will know our business and industry as well as we do.”

4)     Worthwhile relationship.  Make the relationship meaningful.  Especially in today’s high budget pressures and efficiency expectations within legal departments, GCs are looking for a relationship that adds value.  For example, “[s]how that you value our professional relationship by presenting a free seminar to the lawyers in my department.  Help us do our jobs better.”

5)     Personality.  Bottom line, have your client fall in love with you.  Let your individual colors shine from the person behind the profession.  After all, GCs hire the lawyer and not the law firm.  There must be chemistry.

In short, GCs want outside counsel to define “their success as our success.”  Superior client service doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, energy and care to build a client relationship.  It’s not only good business, but client service.

In return, your investment in the client relationship will bring back good client service karma of a successful practice through your happy clients’ referrals and recommendations of your legal services.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Share your client service success stories.  Tweet us @FLEXbyFenwick #RedefineSuccess.