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Based on over 1000 client interviews conducted from 2001 through 2005. July - October 2005: - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT FROM THEIR LAWYERS? Clark D. Cunningham W. Lee Burge Professor of Law & Ethics Georgia State University College of Law Atlanta, Georgia http://law.gsu.edu/ccunningham/ http://law.gsu.edu/Communication/.

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WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT FROM THEIR LAWYERS?Clark D. CunninghamW. Lee Burge Professor of Law & EthicsGeorgia State University College of LawAtlanta, Georgia http://law.gsu.edu/ccunningham/http://law.gsu.edu/Communication/

Professional Development Consortium

How Clients Hire, Fire and Spend: Landing the World’s Best ClientsThe BTI Consulting GroupWellesley, Massachusettswww.bticonsulting.com

  • Based on over 1000 client interviews conducted from 2001 through 2005.

  • July - October 2005:

    • 200+ telephone interviews with in-house corporate counsel at large organizations

    • Median revenue = $ 3.4 billion

    • 27% of the Fortune 500

    • 9% of the Global 500

Professional Development Consortium

  • 2004

    Corporations typically used two primary law firms and seven secondary law firms

  • 2005

    Corporations added four additional secondary law firms (7 → 11)

    -- an unprecedented increase

    53% had replaced or demoted at least one primary law firm in the past 18 months

  • Did not tell the law firm of the changes in status.

    • Just spent less and less money with the primary law firm

      – and more with another law firm

      – until the law firms’ roles reversed.

  • Most primary law firms did not recognize dwindling annual billings as a red flag until it was too late.

Professional Development Consortium

In 2005
In 2005

7 out of 10 corporations are so unsatisfied with their primary law firms that they would not recommend the firm to others.

Professional Development Consortium

What is the one thing your outside counsel does that just drives you crazy
“What is the one thing your outside counsel does that just drives you crazy?”

  • 21% Failure to keep client adequately informed

  • 15% Lack of client focus: failure to listen, non-responsiveness, arrogance

  • 10% Making decisions without client authorization or awareness

  • 7% Failure to give clear, direct advice

  • 53%

  • 21% Inefficient service delivery

  • 15% Billing practices

  • 11% Other

Professional Development Consortium

Clients round out their top three definitions of client focus with an oft-heard mantra, ‘Be Responsive’

Responsiveness is a must, or we wouldn’t hire them.

  • Fortune 500 Transportation Company

    Being responsive and listening to your clients.

  • National Real Estate Developer

    When they put themselves in our shoes

  • Major Hospitality Provider

    Sensitivity to client guidelines for rules of conduct, anticipation of what the client’s needs are.

  • Global 100 Pharmaceutical Company

Professional Development Consortium

Provides services in a manner that makes business sense to the client

  • Major Telecommunications Provider

    Being keenly aware of the goals and objectives of your client and aligning your practice accordingly.

  • Financial Services Provider

    Paying attention to the overall philosophy and goals of the client.

  • Fortune 500 Insurance Company

  • According to BTI: “Responsiveness to clients goes beyond returning phone calls and replying to e-mails. Clients expect law firms to be responsive not just to their phone calls, but also to their needs. Successful law firms verify client expectations frequently, both formally and informally, to ensure this result.”

Professional Development Consortium

  • “BTI recommends frequent monitoring of how the market and clients perceive the firm. We find that fewer than 15% of the self-perceptions held by a firm’s attorneys are actually shared by the marketplace. Regularly solicit client feedback and conduct systematic studies of market awareness and brand image to accurately gauge your firm’s reputation.”

Professional Development Consortium

  • I went to [my current solicitor] because of her reputation and expertise

  • she is a part-time registrar and has a big reputation as a specialist in this area


  • She listens for part of what I have to say, and then interrupts, saying something like

  • ‘OK, I’ve got the picture, what we’ll do is ...’

  • and she hasn’t really got the picture, she’s only got half the facts.

Professional Development Consortium

Professional Development Consortium

2000 research study law society of england wales
2000 Research Study she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice. Law Society of England & Wales

  • Hillary Sommerlad & David Wall: Legally Aided Clients and Their Solicitors: Qualitative Perspectives on Quality and Legal Aid

  • Interviewed 44 clients of 21 different solicitors in the north of England.

  • 50% said that they had previously used a solicitor whom they did not like.

  • The most common complaint was lack of respect, followed by a lack of interest in the client, and then poor communication.

Professional Development Consortium

Listening she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • I sent my former solicitor packing because SHE WOULDN’T LISTEN. That is absolutely fundamental; this was my case, only I knew the full circumstances.”

  • “They must be able to give you time. If solicitors haven’t got enough time, they can’t get enough out of you. You have to have time to be able to tell your story.”

Professional Development Consortium

Explaining she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • “At my first meeting with [my current solicitor] ... I was impressed by his natural ability to talk about technical things with knowledge, but on a level that I could understand.

    • we actually talked and he explained in clear language

    • Other people just had a job to do, but [he] took time to clearly explain technical things.

    • He explained how the system works.”

  • “She speaks of legal matters in a way that is knowledgeable and she explains it well.”

  • “She communicates clearly. She puts things in layman’s terms.”

Professional Development Consortium

Legal 500 scotland
Legal 500 (Scotland) she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • “He has the knack of being able to present very complex situations comprehensibly to commercial managers”

  • “[Their entire legal team is able to] provide a clear explanation to the layperson on sometimes complex legal issues”

Professional Development Consortium

Clients and their solicitors
Clients and Their Solicitors she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • For many clients, their engagement with the law was not simply about achieving a result.

  • Their responses indicated that the process itself was important.

  • Empathy and respect were not luxury items

  • But fundamental to the service.

Professional Development Consortium

What do clients most care about
What do clients most care about? she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.


  • Clients care most about the process

    • having their problems or disputes settled in a way that they view as fair

  • second most important is achieving a fair settlement

  • least important factor is the number of assets they end up winning.

Professional Development Consortium

PLAINTIFFS AND THE PROCESS OF LITIGATION: she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.An Analysis of the Perceptions of Plaintiffs Following their Experience of LitigationTania Matruglio (Civil Research Centre Australia 1994)

Professional Development Consortium

Lawcover study
LawCover Study she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • Australia’s largest indemnity insurer

    • Commissioned a Risk Management Project

    • Sample from over 2000 claims

    • Extensive & confidential interview with each lawyer

    • In most cases also interviewed the lawyer who defended the claim.

  • Major Causes of Claims

    • not dissatisfaction with outcome

    • But instead the handling of the client relationship

    • Failure to

      • listen to the client

      • ask appropriate questions

      • explain relevant aspects of the matter

Professional Development Consortium

Australia client satisfaction with specialists services
Australia: Client Satisfaction she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.with Specialists’ Services

  • Widespread client satisfaction with the specialists’ legal knowledge and skills

  • Consistent evidence of client dissatisfaction with the provision of services

Professional Development Consortium

Different ideas of competence
Different ideas of competence she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • Practitioners and clients were selecting divergent indicators of performance

  • Practitioners concentrated on knowledge and skills to deliver outcomes

  • Clients expected both competence and positive results

  • But were disappointed by the process of getting there

Professional Development Consortium

Clients complained about
Clients complained about she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • Inaccessibility

  • Lack of communication

  • Lack of empathy and understanding

  • Lack of respect

Professional Development Consortium

Additional training recommended
Additional Training Recommended she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • client focused rather than transaction focused

  • client needs are not confined to attaining objective outcomes

  • listen to clients more attentively

  • diagnose their various levels of needs

  • demonstrate empathy

Professional Development Consortium

Value of experience for client communication
Value of Experience for she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.Client Communication

  • Study by Prof. Avrom Sherr (U of London)

  • 143 actual 1st interviews

    • 24 % trainee solicitors

    • 76% experienced solicitors

      • 70% at least 6 years

      • 23% more than 11 years

  • High percentages of ineffective interviews

    • Experienced solicitors generally no better

Professional Development Consortium

Common problems with all solicitors
Common Problems with All Solicitors she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.

  • 51% failed to get the client’s agreement to advice or plan of action

  • 76% failed to confirm with client the solicitor’s understanding of the facts

  • 85% failed to ask before ending whether there was anything else the client wanted to discuss

Professional Development Consortium

Where there were differences between new and experienced solicitors
Where There she’s simply not used to giving clients a voice.Were Differences Between New and Experienced Solicitors

  • Experienced solicitors

    • Used less legalese

    • Better at “filling in the gaps”

    • Rated their own interview performance higher than did trainee solicitors

  • But the clients saw no difference in performance between trainees and experienced solicitors

Professional Development Consortium