Client service differentiators: What makes the difference

It's worth taking the time to connect with outside counsel and discussing these characteristics and the weight they carry at your company and what they mean to your team

Delivering on promises is still an opportunity for a firm to differentiate itself from others. We’ve summarized two years’ worth of client interviews with general counsel and senior litigation counsel to find what they look for in outside counsel.

Client Service Differentiators

Here's how to read the chart:

The Y axis shows value to clients: low to high. Note that low value does not mean no value. The X axis shows an individual lawyer's ability to enact change/have an impact, either in a short period of time or longer.

So here's how this works:

In the lower left quadrant, a firm's strategy and jurisdictions provide low value to clients and their business goals (and ultimately their board and shareholders’ goals). An individual lawyer really can't make those decisions single-handedly—think about opening a new office for example. Moving to the lower right quadrant, we see client relationship management and proactivity. These should be relatively easy for an individual practitioner to deliver on, and they have low (not no) value to clients. Why? These are table stakes. They are expected, as are excellent legal skills.

Move to the upper right, and we see what is of high value to clients and what is relatively easy for an individual lawyer to change in a short period of time: delivering as promised, being a tough negotiator, being proactive about matter/mandate updates and being available and responsive. Note, again, these are differentiators. One lawyer can make a difference; many can help a firm build loyalty across its client base. Next, see the upper middle: pricing, fee arrangements and cost control. These are not so easy for an individual to deliver on since resources and pricing decisions often include others at the firm. They are of high value to clients though and worth emphasis and focus.

Last, in upper left you have expertise and experience, business understanding and business knowledge, which are of high value to clients. One's understanding about the impact a legal issue has on a client's business can be significant in shaping the legal strategy and approach. It's not so easy to change since it takes time and experience to deliver on this.

These insights provide valuable feedback about the inside/outside counsel relationship. It's worth taking the time to connect with outside counsel and discussing these characteristics and the weight they carry at your company and what they mean to your team.

Silvia Coulter

Silvia Coulter is a principal consultant with LawVision Group LLC. Reach her at scoulter@lawvisiongroup.com.

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