Know your client’s business. Find practical solutions to complex problems. Be efficient and economical. Develop personal relationships. Deliver great results. Be responsive and available. Tenaciously fight for your client’s interests.
Do all of this and you will be successful representing clients big and small in whatever your field of choice. But that’s not surprising. Excellent customer service coupled with great results at reasonable cost is the gold standard. What may be surprising, especially to younger attorneys, is the importance of the little things. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
Being in-house counsel provides a different perspective on the traditional attorney-client relationship and what makes that relationship a fruitful one. For those working in private practice, you should periodically assess yourself and what you are doing to strengthen those relationships. Some attorneys even send questionnaires to gauge client satisfaction.
With that in mind, here are a few items that can help to make a client your business partner. They may seem obvious, but they are worth revisiting.
• Pick up the phone. Better yet, meet someone. Email has its place. But to know who you are working with, what their goals are, and what their business is, you have to actually know them. So visit. See your client’s facilities. It is well worth the time investment and builds trust.
• Be honest. We face complex problems with a myriad of possible solutions every day. Make recommendations when needed, but be up front about options, potential consequences of a strategy, likelihoods—whatever it is. And pretending to know something that you do not is a risk not worth taking.
• Know your client’s goals. Legal matters come in all shapes and sizes. Develop an early understanding of what your client’s interests are and think of how you can further or achieve them. Does that mean a strong defense? A business-to-business solution? What is the appetite for risk versus certainty? That early understanding can pay dividends in devising a successful strategy over the long-term.
• Watch the meter. Make sure you delegate appropriately. Have a dedicated team that knows your client’s business whenever possible. Know the stakes and understand the potential outcomes. And stick to your budget or be prepared to explain why it needs to change before it does. These are the things that really create efficiency.
Ultimately, a lot goes into a good partnership. Following the above is at least a good place to start.