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The Mad Clientist

How Clients Hire: Why New GCs Always Fire 1 Major Law Firm

By August 5, 2015April 16th, 2020No Comments

It’s only taken 15 months. New GCs are making a serious and meaningful change in their legal departments—especially where their law firms are concerned. The result: 37.2% of large clients hired a new law firm—one with whom they haven’t worked (in recent history)—up from 23.5% last year.

About 16% of companies put a new GC in place over the last 15 months.

A new CLO comes in, looks around, learns what they have and what they want to do. Give them 6 to 12 months to get a handle on things. Then change emerges. A pattern develops where the new CLO issues an RFP—telling all major firms the goal is to make a few small changes in the law firm panel—to better meet new needs. The cold reality is someone’s just not cutting the mustard and the new GC doesn’t want them on their team. Inevitably this means the addition of one major firm—and the phasing out of a major firm. CLO’s are avoiding net additions to their law firm panels which are at a 15-year low.

Consider any announcement of a new GC a wake up call. Working styles, goals, objectives, and law firm preferences are going to change. The biggest complaint from new GCs: Law firms continue to work in the style their predecessor liked—and the newcomer doesn’t. This does not bode well for leaving a client-focused first impression.

As one GC told us: “It took me a little while to realize—this one partner (at a primary law firm) copied me on every email he sent to his team at the firm. I didn’t understand why. Apparently my predecessor asked for this, but to me it feels like death by paper cut.”

Every new GC will make time to meet with their top 5 or 6 outside law firms. Use this opportunity to ask about preferences and working styles. Also think about how you can succinctly brief the newly minted GC on key matters and issues: think bullet points with an option to go into detail if and when they ask for it.

Once you have your new working styles down and briefed your client on key issues—you have positioned yourself to ask about new objectives and goals. It’s all about your new GC before it’s about you.

The number of new GCs taking the legal helm at large companies will likely surge before it declines. The leap in new law firm hires says few firms are using the transition as a business development tool. Your client-focused welcome mat is stronger than any proposal you could possibly submit. 


Next week we’ll share who’s winning the work: large or mid-size firms.

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