Feedback Loop

Part of my role as the publisher of InsideCounsel is to stay tuned in to how in-house counsel interact with the law firms they employ.

To do that, I've recently moderated several panels of general counsel who--for the benefit of law firm attorneys in attendance--discussed their opinions of outside counsel and what they need from law firms. Client surveys are a frequent topic of discussion at these panels, but the perspectives many GCs give on the subject are disappointing. Most GCs report either that they don't participate, or have never been asked to give formal feedback.

While I am disappointed to hear that so few firms are seeking guidance from their in-house clients, the fact that few GCs respond to client surveys isn't surprising. Although most law firms are talking about conducting client surveys, many forget that when they ask for feedback they're making an implicit promise to act on it. If your law firms aren't improving services based on the data they're collecting, then you shouldn't feel obligated to participate in their surveys.

But as the provider of a key service to the business for which you work, you shouldn't fall into the same trap. You should be talking to your clients, listening to their needs and then implementing their suggestions into how your legal department functions. This will help you market your services to the client. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

Know how to talk to the client. Talking to the board is different from talking to the CFO or head of HR. Figure out how to best communicate with each of those leaders and approach them with information about how you can help them address their key concerns.

Create a short, online survey that leaders of business units can fill out after they interact with the legal department. Use that data to market your successes and improve on your shortcomings.

Benchmark financials. InsideCounsel's Annual Report, which will appear in the May issue, as well as many other sources provide budget and financial data that can help you judge how your legal department's spending stacks up and help you in the fight for more resources.

And to glean more ideas from your peers in the in-house bar, come to the 6th Annual InsideCounsel SuperConference in Chicago April 18?? 1/2 19. See p. 82 for details. I look forward to seeing you there.

Let me know what you think by e-mailing me at nat@insidecounsel.com

Staff Writer

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