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Getting clients: Do GCs get swayed by wining, dining? Directories & brochures? Linked-in and Twitter?

The answer may be that it’s complicated and that there’s no silver bullet: a wide swath of factors matter (and don’t matter) in selecting lawyers by in-house counsel, revealed a survey of 65 general counsel (GCs) and senior legal managers by event management company IDEX Legal and information provider Thomson Reuters.

The respondents were asked which of 14 common business development activities or characteristics of external counsel were most effective in influencing their selection of advisers, rating on a scale from 0 (no effect) to 10 (extremely positive effect).

Most responses in the survey regarding how GCs selected law firms were not very obvious, seeing a wide range of responses from respondents.

Nearly no category (except the first one listed below) won a rating of 10 by any in-housers, and the most popular score range in most categories was a 5 out of 10 (which could lead one to speculate that a rating of 5 demonstrates relative ambivalence, while a 0 literally meant ‘couldn’t care less’).

We have therefore taken an analysis of the data that attempts to figure out what GCs feel most strongly about (though interpretations of the data set may vary).

Also read: In-house teams to spend less on external counsel, suggests survey

1. Sexiest law firms must know me, my business & the law

In the single most obvious result, 84 per cent of the GCs interviewed said that a law firm’s “demonstrated understanding” of the client’s specific industry and business very strongly influenced their decision in whether to instruct it or not, rating it 7 out of 10 or more in how important a factor it was.

The numbers are overwhelming in that category: 21 per cent scored a law firm’s business awareness as 10 out of 10 in the importance stakes, with 17% rating it 9 out of 10, and 36 per cent 8 out 10.

Practically no other category saw any GCs score as 10 out of 10 in terms of the positive effect it had on their selection.

Personal contact: visits / phone calls / personal notes

Lawyers picking up the phone or writing a personal note, was rated by 43% as 7 - 9 in terms of the positive effect this had (while the rest rated it around 4, 5 or 6 out of 10).

Written materials

Stuff lawyers have written “demonstrating” their expertise, counted for some GCs a lot: 38% rated this 7 - 9 out of 10 (while 19% didn’t seem to care much about it, rating this between 1 and 3).

2. Some care a bit about…

The preferences in most other categories were only mild, with some not caring at all and some caring slightly about a variety of factors.

Recommendations or referrals from colleagues

17% barely cared at all (rating 3 or less) if a lawyer was recommended by a colleague, while 34% seemed to care (rating between 7 and 9).

Free seminars and webinars

The effect of these was all over the map – a slight majority of 55% rated this between 1 and 5 (as in, having a relatively modest effect), though 20% rated this activity an 8 or 9 out of 10.

Branding as a full service law firm

While 36% voted either 5 or 6 on this one, a law firm branding itself as full service was apparently very important (between 7 and 10) to 36% of respondents (though at the same time, 21% of GCs didn’t seem to care about the full service tag at all, rating it a 1-3).

Industry event sponsorships, presentations or attendance

39% of GCs said that such sponsorships did not sway them much (a rating of 0-4), with another 24% giving it a very neutral 5 rating.

Committee work, community involvement, board memberships

33% did not care much (1-4 rating), while 28% cared a great deal (rating 7-10, with 2% even having given a 10 rating on this).

Whether these ratings are primarily for your lawyer being on your company’s board, or doing their bit of pro bono or corporate social responsibility (CSR), is unfortunately not clear from the question.

3. Most GCs (apparently) don’t care about:

Your party or sports tickets

The most apathetic reaction was seen in the category of “invitations to social events / sporting events / meals”, where 69% claimed to rate these between 0 (no effect) to 4 out of 10 in terms of effectiveness of influencing their selection. (That said, 2% of respondents rated this a 10 out of 10, as well as 2% each rating this a 9 and 8, which means that at least a handful of GCs care very much about getting wined and dined).

Your Twitter account

Social media activity on LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook and elsewhere also scored poorly for the most part: 49% rated this 1-4, with only 22% rating it as a 7-9.

Your beautiful brochure and website

48 per cent of clients rated website content and firm brochures between 1 and 4 out of 10 (with only 12% rating it 7-9 in the effect they had).

Your email communications / spam

44% didn’t care much (1-4) for “direct mail / email communications” from law firms about themselves, and only 21% said they cared (7-9).

Your directory listings, ratings (and membership in law firm networks)

34% rated offline and online directory listings and rankings an unimportant 1-4; a massive 33% gave this an ambivalent 5 out of 10, while only 19% rated it as important at 7-9.

Membership in law firm networks fared similarly, with only 19% caring enough about these to rate them 7-9.

The big takeaway from this is…

That in-house counsel are human and have their own range of preferences.

Just as advertising and marketing in the consumer space is most effective when it’s tailored towards its audience, so does law firm marketing need to treat every GC and in-house counsel as a person who may respond differently to different approaches.

A small number only cares about the work you do and don’t get swayed by directories or what others think, while others seem to respond well to seminars or mass mailers, while another type seems to need that personal touch (including the occasional dinner or IPL invite).

And there might even be the occasional Twitter or social media-nut GC who only hires lawyers with a Twitter account.

And all of that kind of goes to prove what is obvious: not every high-flying genius-IQ lawyer will be a good rainmaker; it clearly also requires a human touch and emotional intelligence (EQ).

Make it your business to know my business, was the single thing nearly all GCs agreed on
Make it your business to know my business, was the single thing nearly all GCs agreed on

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