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Client Choice – International 2013
here is no such thing as international
business; there is only business. Working
across time zones, accommodating cultural
sensitivities and seizing opportunities – wherever
they may present themselves – are part and
parcel of commerce in today’s globalised world.
But breaking into a new market can be a
daunting challenge for even the most seasoned
multinationals. And when taking that first step
into the unknown, it is only human nature to call
upon your staunchest allies whose experience
and insight can help to smooth the path.
However, the nature of modern business
means that there will inevitably come a time
when the trusty Rolodex of advisers comes up
short: either because they are too busy to spring
to your aid or because they just don’t have the
requisite expertise. Establishing new relationships
is never easy at the best of times, but when that
first contact comes at a time of high risk or
stress, all you want is a safe pair of hands.
“When looking to embark on a new
relationship with external counsel – either with a
firm I have not previously instructed or in a new
jurisdiction – I have no hesitation in asking my
peers at other companies for their experiences
with these potential new partners,” says José
Gómez de Barreda Tous de Monsalve, general
counsel at Globalvia. “Assuming that there are
no conflicts of interest, we are able to guide each
other. In truth, this is the best advice you can get.”
Such a bold statement from the chief legal
officer of one of the world’s largest infrastructure
companies is cheering, as it goes right to the
heart of the ethos behind the Client Choice
awards. Having gathered more than 10,000
testimonies from senior in-house counsel
worldwide since the project’s inception back
in 2005, the Client Choice team knows a little
something about what it takes to forge lasting
and meaningful client relationships. Underpinning
the awards is our firm belief that only those who
have experienced these relationships first-hand –
corporate counsel at major companies and
corporations – can make truly meaningful
recommendations to their peers.
But if our years of research into the secrets
of great client care have revealed anything, it is
that client needs and expectations – irrespective
of industry or location – actually vary very little.
During this time we have also seen hundreds of
firms and partners take great leaps forward by
embracing dramatically divergent and distinctive
philosophies on customer care. Some favour
coordinated, firm-wide strategies; others prefer
to give individual partners the latitude to interpret
and respond to the diverse needs and
requirements of their own clients.
So what is the best approach? If any firms
are labouring under a misapprehension that
clients can find the time to worry about how their
external partners choose to manage their own
systems, they should think again. Clients simply
need everything to work. And frankly, if it does
not, a competitor will always be waiting in the
wings to step into their shoes, as de Monsalve
explains. “Rapid response is the essence of our
business, so we cannot accept delays. If we feel
that the wrong level of staff has been used, we
need to consider changing firm. The competition
among law firms is huge and ultimately my
primary responsibility is to get the right advice.
It is up to the law firms themselves so decide
on the best way to deliver what I need.”
“Frankly, when it comes
to the advice, you are
going to assume that all
the lawyers that you are
using are exceptional in
their area of expertise”
de Monsalve is not alone in his hard-line
approach – clients are increasingly flexing their
muscles to make external partners work harder
and smarter on their behalf. And since those
participating in the Client Choice research all hold
senior roles, it should perhaps comes as no
surprise that the quality of legal advice they require
– indeed, demand – is nothing short of perfection.
“Frankly, when it comes to the advice, you
are going to assume that all the lawyers that
you are using are exceptional in their area of
expertise,” confirms a senior counsel at a Fortune
500 company, who preferred to speak off the
record. “The starting point is that they are going
In search of lasting