Page 6 - ILO Client Choice Guide 2012

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ILO Client Choice Guide 2012
update clients on its progress. The internal legal
departments at multinational companies often
have many different balls in the air at the same
time, and a lack of communication can quite
easily cause one to come crashing to earth –
often with grave (and costly) consequences.
“The worst situation is if you don’t realise
that nothing is happening with a particular
matter,” explains a senior member of the in-
house IP department at a major European
manufacturer. “The point is that many in-house
departments are understaffed. So if you have
hundreds of files to work on, and a law firm that
is working on one of them doesn’t get back to
you or doesn’t pursue a matter, despite being
instructed to do so, it can take months before
you realise that nothing has happened, even
though you thought that everything was in
good hands and being dealt with.”
Obviously, impressing a client involves much
more than just letting it know that you are on the
case (although it seems that for some firms, this
would still be a good place to start). To shine
these days, you need to ensure not only that
initial instructions receive a swift response, but
also that communications reflect the client’s
preferences as to how information is delivered.
“Something that can really vary between
firms – and sometimes between individual
lawyers within firms – is how responsive they
are,” says the vice president legal of a large US
corporation. “This is not just a matter of whether
they get back to you quickly, but whether they
are able to tailor their work to what you want.
Sometimes I won’t have the time or budget for
an extensive written analysis, and I’ll just need
some seat-of-the-pants advice. A number of
firms out there now are willing to give you that
top-of-the-head, bottom-line analysis, and are
less concerned about the fact that they might
lose revenue on that particular matter.”
The implication is that there are still plenty
of firms which are not prepared to compromise
on potential income today in exchange for long-
term gains tomorrow. But if they don’t listen to
what the client actually wants, then there is every
chance that it will switch to a firm that does.
“Impressing a client
involves much more than
just letting it know that
you are on the case
(although it seems that for
some firms, this would still
be a good place to start).”
“Our client care programme starts with
the premise that you must know your client,”
elaborates Bill Tuer, a partner and member of
the executive committee at Norton Rose Group.
“That involves taking the time to ask questions,
understand what its expectations are and ensure
that you continue to meet those expectations.
The broader dimension of this is to know its
industry, and this is another key part of Norton
Rose’s core strategy. We do a very good job of
understanding different industries and how
clients fit into the industries in which they work.”
Know your customer
This need for modern law firms to appreciate the
commercial or industrial contexts within which
their clients operate is a theme that is echoed by
in-house counsel. “I would expect the firms we
work with to have an understanding of our
business and the industry that we are part of,”
says Wolfgang Heckenberger, chief counsel in
Left to right:
John Coleman
Wolfgang Heckenberger
Nicole Phillips
Dick Thurston
Bill Tuer