technical skill is important in selecting an external lawyer, in most cases
there will be a number who can do the work. So how to stand out?
Understand my business and goals
This is the
most important. It's all very well to be able to recite the law, but unless you
can make it relevant to my business, you're wasting my time and money. Be an
active listener to ensure you understand my goals – I am not a subject expert
and may not have asked the right questions.
Think Powerpoint, not Word. Use pictures. Give me a summary I can understand at
a glance, and that answers my questions. Give me something I can hand straight
to my senior management without having to translate it. Unless I ask for it, I
don't want 60 pages of analysis of cases and legal theory - I assume you know
3 Make a
me "one the one hand this, on the other hand that”. Your judgment and ability
to make the right call is what I am paying for, and is what makes a really good
lawyer stand out from a merely competent one.
practical and open to challenging your conclusions
saying roll over and change your advice because I don't like it. I am saying
don't be dogmatic, and work with me to find practical solutions for addressing
5 Be honest
what I need to hear, not what you think I want to hear. If I have asked you to
do something stupid, tell me (politely). If you think I don't have a case, tell
me - even if you could make a lot of fees running it. I will respect you for it
and use you next time I have a good one.
many examples of this, but the same principle, eg:
- Let me
know up-front if you think there might be an issue - don't wait until you have
a fully polished advice. Better minor embarrassment if it turns out ok, than me
finding out there is a big problem which you sat on for a week.
realistic with your timing and fee estimates, and don’t promise something you
can’t deliver. If you commit to a time or cost, stick to it. If you can’t, let
me know (and why) as soon as possible – don’t just let the deadline pass. Tell
me when your WIP is at 50% and at 80% of your estimate - not at 120%.
7 Keep calm
and carry on
if I am freaking out. This is critical if my company is being sued, prosecuted,
or is subject to an investigation. A cool, clinical level-head in this context
will calm the situation down, produce better outcomes, and make me grateful for
life. Guess who I will call if it happens again?
long term client relationship, and invest in it
be able to make more money today by milking a matter - but I won’t use you next
time. Think what you can do to 'add value' - give me a heads-up about a
development that could impact my business, call me for a cup of coffee to talk
about how business is going, make yourself available to take brief calls to
bounce around issues without charging me - next time I have a matter I will
think of you.
If I say
"don't take instructions from my internal clients unless you come through me”,
then then don't do it. If I say "bill every month”, then do it.
ruin my business as well as yours if you are not. At a lesser level, 'point
scoring' and taking unreasonable positions in a commercial negotiation may make
you feel big, but it is not in my interest as it rarely helps parties reach a
practical, commercial outcome.
while not a "commandment” - be pleasant and be yourself. Clients can smell
used-car salesmen types a mile off. If I have a choice of being locked up for
months on a matter with someone I like and someone I don't, guess which I will
for most of these points, there is a direct counterpoint for what in-house
counsel should do to effectively engage with external counsel.