From John DeGroote’s Settlement Perspectives
In a world of alternative fees, law firm convergence, the ACC Value Challenge and more, what does the client really want? Is it lower fees, predictable expenses, more “value” for the company’s legal dollar, or something else? What’s the best way for a law firm to respond? It turns out that clients are eager to share the answers to all these questions — all you have to do is ask.
A few months ago the lawyers at DrinkerBiddle did just that — they asked. The firm invited a few of us with real experience as clients to the firm’s partner retreat to share our perspectives on client service. They got what they asked for.
As soon as we began our talk it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who had thought about the law firm/client relationship before we got there. One of my co-panelists, P.H. Glatfelter Company’s GC Thom Jackson, started by sharing a simple question that outside counsel apparently don’t ask him often enough:
What is an acceptable outcome in this matter?
I have shared Thom’s insight with a few lawyers, both in-house and outside, and I’ve only gotten two responses. Outside counsel tell me “I always ask that question,” and their clients tell me “[m]y lawyers rarely ask that question.” Like it or not, there’s a disconnect here. How can we avoid it? As Thom’s question reminds us, and as we discussed in Settlement Advice: Avoid the Assembly Line, the best way to learn what your clients want is to ask.
Apparently an overachiever, Thom came to Philadelphia with a written list of 10 more questions outside counsel should ask the GCs they work with. Thom’s questions are quoted below, with his permission:
To be clear, this blog isn’t necessarily about customer service — Patrick J. Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service and Dan Hull at What About Paris? have that more than covered. But when I saw Thom’s questions, I wanted to make sure that more lawyers than just DrinkerBiddle got the opportunity to ask them. While only a few tie directly to the settlement process, don’t discount the rest. They’ll all give you great insight into your client and what it needs — and that can help you in your next negotiation and beyond.
If you’re an outside counsel, ask your next client a few of these questions. You’ll be glad you did.
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