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WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT FROM THEIR LAWYERS? Clark D. Cunningham W. Lee Burge Professor of Law

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Title: WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT FROM THEIR LAWYERS? Clark D. Cunningham W. Lee Burge Professor of Law


1
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/ccunningh
am/ http//law.gsu.edu/Communication/
2
How Clients Hire, Fire and Spend Landing the
Worlds Best Clients The BTI Consulting
Group Wellesley, Massachusetts www.bticonsulting.c
om
  • 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

3
  • 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.

4
In 2005
  • 7 out of 10 corporations are so unsatisfied with
    their primary law firms that they would not
    recommend the firm to others.

5
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

6
Clients round out their top three definitions of
client focus with an oft-heard mantra, Be
Responsive
  • Responsiveness is a must, or we wouldnt 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 clients needs
    are.
  • Global 100 Pharmaceutical Company

7
  • 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.

8
  • 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 firms 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 firms reputation.

9
  • 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
  • but SHE JUST DOESNT LISTEN.
  • She listens for part of what I have to say, and
    then interrupts, saying something like
  • OK, Ive got the picture, what well do is ...
  • and she hasnt really got the picture, shes only
    got half the facts.

10
  • I think its partly because she so busy and also
    because shes simply not used to giving clients a
    voice.
  • Whats more she has actually made me frightened
    of expressing my views.
  • I am about to change to another solicitor.

11
2000 Research Study 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.

12
Listening
  • I sent my former solicitor packing because SHE
    WOULDNT 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 havent got enough time, they cant
    get enough out of you. You have to have time to
    be able to tell your story.

13
Explaining
  • 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
    laymans terms.

14
Legal 500 (Scotland)
  • 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

15
Clients and Their Solicitors
  • 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.

16
What do clients most care about?
  • CLIENT PERCEPTIONS OF LITIGATION WHAT COUNTS
    PROCESS OR RESULT? Tom Tyler,Trial Magazine
    (1988)
  • 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.

17
PLAINTIFFS AND THE PROCESS OF LITIGATION An
Analysis of the Perceptions of Plaintiffs
Following their Experience of Litigation Tania
Matruglio (Civil Research Centre Australia 1994)

18
LawCover Study
  • Australias 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

19
Australia Client Satisfaction with Specialists
Services
  • Widespread client satisfaction with the
    specialists legal knowledge and skills
  • Consistent evidence of client dissatisfaction
    with the provision of services

20
Different ideas of competence
  • 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

21
Clients complained about
  • Inaccessibility
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of empathy and understanding
  • Lack of respect

22
Additional Training Recommended
  • 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

23
Value of Experience for 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

24
Common Problems with All Solicitors
  • 51 failed to get the clients agreement to
    advice or plan of action
  • 76 failed to confirm with client the solicitors
    understanding of the facts
  • 85 failed to ask before ending whether there was
    anything else the client wanted to discuss

25
Where There 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
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