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Client Choice – International 2013
to be able to provide the substantive work
product and practical advice you are looking
for. If I ever have to rewrite a brief, that firm will
never work with us again.”
In today’s highly competitive market, how
this advice is delivered has thus become the
decisive factor. These more intangible, more
time-consuming and ultimately more challenging
aspects of the interplay between firm and client
have today become the hallmarks of superior
service. As with all relationships, it’s the little
things that really count, and the rewards will
be shared by those who go the extra mile to
impress, nurture and delight. We spoke to some
leading corporate counsel to find out what it is
they really want when it comes to client care.
Impress me
Typically, most law firm/client relationships begin
in the same way. A small group of charming,
immaculately presented partners and their
associates stride into a conference room and
introduce themselves to their prospective clients.
They begin by outlining their professional
backgrounds, their areas of expertise and their
commitment to client service. They go on to explain
how they are different from everyone else. “But
you know what?” reveals our interviewee. “It can
be hard to see any difference at all from the last
five firms who came in and gave the same pitch.”
“We choose lawyers, not law firms,” he
continues. “The ones who most impress me are
those who say, ‘We have never worked together
before – we want an opportunity to work with
you. Give us three cases; we will give you several
options in the way we structure them for you. In
addition, we will do the first case for free because
we are committed to a long-term partnership.’”
For Marilù Capparelli, head of legal
(Italy/Greece/Turkey) at Google Inc, this initial
encounter is often when firms make their first
faux pas
in pursuit of that all-important lasting
alliance. “I have done a lot of beauty contests
as a client,” she explains. “And I can tell you that
the most common mistake is not listening before
talking. Of course we need to learn about the
firm, but ultimately the partners need to come
and listen to what we want, what we need and
how we work. This can be a real differentiator
between one pitch and another.”
Building on solid foundations
Like all relationships, it is only once the initial
honeymoon period has ended that the true
strength of the bond is tested. And as anyone
with a few years of marriage under their belt can
attest, the union will endure only if both sides put
real effort into understanding each other’s needs
and keeping the lines of communication open.
In fact, taking the time to understand the client’s
business was commonly cited as the most
crucial factor for effective client service. During
our research, the importance of learning
company structures and policies in the search
for efficiency, cost savings and strategic
advantage was highlighted time and again.
“Once the relationship has been established,
there should be a regular and frank dialogue,”
explains Capparelli. “Outside counsel need to
know exactly what they are doing well and what
is not going so well. It is time consuming, but I
believe that firms should be given an opportunity
to fix any problems. This allows for constant
improvement in the service and ultimate pays
dividends over the lifetime of the relationship.”
One truism is that senior in-house counsel
tread a delicate tightrope between risk and
reward, and thus need advisers who can
provide gyroscopic assistance, rather than
simply recommending that it would be safest
Left to right:
José Gómez de Barreda Tous de Monsalve
Marilù Capparelli
Kaarli Harry Eichhorn
Neil Rosolinsky