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Kraft’s Advice to Law Firms

Insight Yaacov P. Silberman Yaacov P. Silberman · March 28, 2010

What does the General Counsel of a Fortune 100 company want from a law firm?  In the case of one former GC – Theodore Banks of Kraft Foods – the answer is printed in black and white.  The ABA’s 2004 publication, “Marketing Success Stories” edited by Weishar and Smiley begins with an essay by Mr. Banks titled What We Wish We Could Get from  a Law Firm, or, Hot to Make Us Fall in Love Again.

The advice propounded by Mr. Banks is entirely commonsensical.  But it is only in recent years, if not months, that “innovative” law firms are touting their adoption of the practices that in-house counsel has wanted all along.

Bypassing the more obvious (but still sage) recommendations, here’s a summary of what one General Counsel recommends to outside counsel trying to get his business.

Getting The Client

  • Firms need to distinguish themselves.  Oftentimes law firms cannot adequately answer the question, “Why should I hire you instead of someone else?”  Using vague generalities to answer this question is insufficient.  A firm must prove its capabilities for “high-quality, cost-effective service” in any relevant areas.  Rimon Law Group’s co-founder mused once that he found it odd when law firms tout that they are ranked third for this or that practice area.  As a General Counsel, my reply might be, “can you introduce me to numbers one and two?”
  • Ditch the Picasso. While adequate overhead is expected, a firm that spends a lot of money on glass buildings or fancy artwork might suggest the firm is padding its bills to pay for unnecessary overhead.  In-house counsel would rather their lawyer buy a tasteful poster and pass the savings on to them.
  • Do what you can to get in the door.  While a company might not be willing to try out a new firm on a billion dollar litigation, they might roll the dice on a smaller, more discrete matter.  Firms might offer new clients to work on a matter at a discounted rate, showing all along what it would cost at the usual rate, to gain a client’s trust and to expose them to the firm.

In these three categories, I’m proud that Rimon Law Group rises above the competition.  More than most, they understand what a real brand identity means to the firm.  In the case of Rimon, we place the focus on lawyers with greater experience operating in an ultra-efficient environment and an assurance of predictable fees to our clients.  We’ve also acted creatively to address new clients’ needs in order to expose them to our non-traditional way of doing business.  This often comes at a cost but we’re building durable relationships in the process.

Next week, I’ll discuss Mr. Banks’s advice for keeping existing clients and also do a self-evaluation of Rimon’s practices in the areas of Listening, Communication, Billing, Staffing and Fees.

Stay tuned.