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Meetings have quickly become homonyms: one word with different meanings. Meetings can be virtual or in-person. Your mission is to make sure you know the right one. Sounds easy, but:

11 clients told us about their outside counsel showing up in person for a meeting — while they were patiently waiting at their screens remotely. Some of these clients were close by and came into the office. Others put outside counsel in a conference room to meet virtually. Others simply rescheduled.

These were no big deal breakers — but it is a pointed reminder of how important it is to understand your clients’ preferences — and confirming with clients to be sure.

The ink is still wet on our brand-new survey — based on more than 340 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers. 70% of clients tell us they prefer to work virtually with their law firm. They note circumstances may change their mind — but this sets the tone. We recommend asking every client to be doubly sure.

A dive into the industries leaning towards in-person meetings with outside counsel

Here are the 10 industries where the majority of clients prefer an in-person meeting:

      • Healthcare
      • Transportation
      • Pharma
      • Life Science
      • Transportation
      • Financial Services
      • Food
      • Agriculture
      • High Tech
      • Retail

Companies in these industries are among the most innovative. They are aggressive in digital transformation, face industry disruption from upstarts, deal with big IP issues, or are under public scrutiny. They see a number of their legal issues as nuanced and trendsetting. All of this leads them to be inclined to meet in person with outside counsel.

Another 4 industries need some in-person meetings with outside counsel

We found 4 industries where clients have a slight bias toward virtual meetings — but their preference can change to in person meetings depending on the topic of discussion.

      • Energy
      • Consumer Products
      • Insurance
      • Professional Services

The clients in these 4 industries see more complexity than many others in their matters — but they are limited to a smaller segment of their portfolio.

You can use this as a guide as to what to expect and how to think about your overall communication plan with clients. There will be exceptions to every preference. Knowing when and how they apply is key to effective communication.

It’s easy to skip over what seems obvious — like the type of meeting your clients expect.

The confusion over showing up in person suggests we bring back the ancient art of confirming meeting details 24 hours before start time. Confirm meeting type at scheduling time, accept invitations in a timely manner, and check meeting invitation details to see if it’s online or in person. Microsoft is starting to make online meetings a default setting in meeting invitations which can lead to miscommunication.

Good scheduling and best in the market ahead.

The Mad Clientist

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