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The Mad Clientist

The 3 Biggest Client Service Turkeys of 2015

By November 18, 2015April 16th, 2020No Comments

The Mad Clientist would like to give thanks to the attorneys delivering some of this year’s most egregious client service turkeys. We share these true stories from corporate counsel in the hopes we can all learn some lessons—and have a few laughs.

If You Don’t Trust Us To Do the Right Thing: We Resign

Thomas—GC at a global manufacturer—personally led a detailed evaluation of proposals and pitches to hire a new firm for a large and complex litigation. Fire, Flash & Feelgood was the clear winner. FF&F was able to pinpoint key areas of risk and exposure for Thomas’ company and suggested a strategy playing right into Thomas’ objective.

FF&F started right in and swarmed the matter. FF&F was determined to not just take care of this matter but turn Thomas’ company into a major client.

Thomas checked in with FF&F to see how things were going and reminded the firm their agreement called for a budget which had not been received. Thomas also wanted updates every 2 weeks to help him update his CEO who was keeping an eye on this litigation.

Two weeks came and went and Thomas had no budget or update. Thomas reminded FF&F about his need for the budget and updates—no matter how little activity occurred. Thomas also pointed out how the lack of a budget was a personal embarrassment as the CEO wanted a budget to share with the Board.

The FF&F relationship partner called Thomas and suggested the following: “You need to be able to trust we are doing the right thing for you. You hired us to take care of this and we are. If you don’t trust us to work without a budget we will resign from this assignment. Same is true for the updates—we will reach out to you when we need you.”

—Experience shared during an in-depth interview with General Counsel as part of BTI’s annual research (used with permission) 


How Not To Improve Value at a Town Hall Meeting

The GC of an innovative global behemoth brought every law firm performing work of any substance together from around the globe. The goal: share objectives, create better communication between firms and create more of a company-centric culture among and between law firms. The meeting was packed with information about performance metrics, business unit goals and changes made in the business units which improved the value and timeliness of legal services.

The next to last session in the global town hall was reserved for the law firms with the absolute biggest relationships—4 in all. Each was to speak about how to improve value and the level of service. During these presentations, senior law firm partners shared their suggestions. One of these partners closed their remarks by suggesting the client: “Stop using such a detailed management method for outside counsel and leave the law firm to their own devices.”

—As shared during a client feedback interview for a BTI client (used with permission)


Please Come Learn about Us Even Though Your Time Is Valuable

Liza, a GC at a large high tech leader, was impressed by a law firm who had a growing relationship with her company. Liza reached out to Al and Steve—the 2 partners—to thank them for their commitment to the company. Liza also suggested Al and Steve get to know the company better so she could give them more work. Liza invited the partners into the headquarters for a tour of the facility, a meeting with key IP and licensing executives, a visit to a key plant down the road, and lunch. Al and Steve eagerly accepted.

The big day arrived and everyone was pleased with the meetings.

Several months later the firm’s monthly invoice arrived. Liza scanned the invoice and found several entries for both Al and Steve. Liza noted each of the partners charged different amounts of time and each had different descriptions for their entries. Liza became unnerved at the prospect of 2 partners working together viewing their time and activities so differently—how could they perform well in a matter if they weren’t together in what she thought was a business development call—one she invested her time to arrange.

Liza shared her surprise with Al and Steve at being charged. Steve explained how their time is in demand and the firm should be compensated accordingly. Steve also took time to point out how ultimately this was a commercial relationship and they need to bill their time.

Liza politely thanked Steve for his perspective and ended the call—and approved the invoice. Liza indicated she was glad she had the experience because this taught her how you really don’t know a firm until you have a substantive conversation with them. More importantly she learned this relationship was not worth any more of her precious time and looked forward to Al and Steve’s matters winding down. Liza told her in-house colleagues Steve and Al’s firm was on the no-work list and shared her experience with her corporate counsel networking group—and me.

—As shared during a client feedback interview for a BTI client (used with permission)

You can find more client service turkeys—and the skills to keep yourself out of the turkey fryer—in my newly released book: Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 100 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers of superior client relationships and growth. Based on 14,000 in-depth interviews BTI conducted with clients, this consistent and systematic approach to developing superior client service skills gives you unparalleled access to your clients’ most complex—and premium-rate—work.


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