Do you remember the tips I posted from a former law firm lawyer who is now in-house? If not, here was the first post: Client Development Tips: From Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House and the second: Client Development: More Tips from a Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House.
Well my friend has even more tips for you. Here are some he recently shared with me.
I would describe this as billing and service issues:
- If you quote me a price for a flat fee, don’t add an administrative fee. Flat fee means flat fee.
- When you proof your bill, imagine what the recipient is going to think when they open it. Does it make sense? Will I understand what you did? Will who I send your bill to internally understand it?
- If I am shocked by the size of your bill (it happened to me in the first month), then we have a problem. I may just decide not to call you again.
- Get your bills to me on a timely basis. I was once in your shoes and understand the importance of me paying on time. But, if you can’t get me a timely bill, I will wonder why.
- Provide a cover letter with your bills if you are mailing them. It lets me know you actually read the bill before it was sent. Read your bill before you send it by the way – see above.
- When it comes to billing your time, take a long term view. Don’t try to bill every second of every minute to me. Occasionally, note “No charge” on a short call to let me know you value the relationship.
- I am frequently calling outside counsel because I need assistance with a problem. Rather than offer to do a memo on the subject, offer to ghost write an e-mail that I can send internally. That has far more value than a memo.
- Trust of outside counsel is enormous. It is harder for you to overcome bad service than getting your foot in the door to begin with. If I have to keep addressing issues with your work (i.e. billing, level of service, etc.) then I may lose trust in you. If that happens, you can assume I will steer our work elsewhere. Also, if the people I support don’t want to work with you, don’t assume I can change their mind or override them.
- If you don’t have expertise on an issue, be honest with me about it. I am relying on you to be straight with me on who can assist us. If you can’t help me, I’ll respect that and call back for other work.
- When I assign you a project, ask me questions. When do I need it? What type of answer am I looking for (short answer, draft e-mail, etc.)? Do I want a quick look or a deep dive on the issue? Talking it out might help me refine what I need and what you should be doing in response.
- I occasionally call counsel for recommendations on an area outside of theirs. Give me good options and don’t worry about whether who you recommend will “steal me away.” I’m not that fickle and I am loyal to the firms who I can trust.
- Occasionally, I need to call outside counsel for a sanity check i.e. “My gut says the answer is…, what do you think?” If that’s you, then you are viewed as one of my go-to firms. Don’t charge me for the call or e-mail if quick. Answer if you can and then ask if I want you to put some time into the issue.