Law Firms, Client Relationship Management and the Advent of the “General Counsel Relations” Manager

Law firms want to retain corporate clients. This is not a new development. Marketing departments emerged in the mid 1990s, along with client relationship management initiatives. There has been little penetration or measurable success in these efforts, however, and law firms continue to struggle with the best way to achieve effective CRM.

Over the last several months, more law firms have added “resident general counsel” to help gain insight into the inner workings of corporate law departments. Reed Smith and Nixon Peabody, both innovative firms in many areas, come to mind.

How to earn the trust and loyalty of corporate clients is not complex, and even the brightest and most politic relationship managers will not succeed if their firm is not open to changing the age-old business model. There is a reason corporate clients do not trust outside counsel. Corporate law departments need predictable budgets and law firms need to understand the pressures of the office of general counsel and that the client is the corporation. Law firms need a long-term view of client relationships, improve communications and responsiveness, and develop fee-structures, particularly for litigation, that effectively balance risk and reward between the firm and the corporate client. These measures, along with others noted in the 2006 ACC Survey Results, will improve relations and achieve the holy grail of client relationship management.



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