Yes, I went with the lowest hanging fruit of topics for my marketing column in the July/August 2021 issue of Law Practice, Getting to In-House Without Ending Up in the Outhouse, by doling out pearls of wisdom as it relates to a law firm’s successful pitching of corporate counsel. It never fails to draw an audience.
Unfortunately, one of the key pieces of advice is simply this—everyone is different. It is a very subjective measuring stick. And for some reason, many articles written, and programs presented respond to a handful of in-house folks’ personal philosophies as if they were trends in the industry. When I drafted the column, I used as an example the Benjamin Moore & Co. decision to dismiss its entire legal department. Spoiler alert—it was not a trend. It was a one-off. And if I were writing the same column from scratch today, I’d replace that example with the recent uproar created by Eric Grossman, Morgan Stanley’s longtime chief legal officer, who sent a “warning” to the bank’s outside law firms about their policies allowing remote work and “the lack of urgency to return lawyers to the office.” Hey, if that is a “requirement” for Eric and/or Morgan Stanley—then perhaps my law firm would comply to get or retain the business. Because, as I said, it is a subjective target.
Of course, putting the squeeze on law firms to get attorneys back into the office is probably a little tone deaf today. Most of the law firms I work with and interact with most certainly would like to see attorneys and staff back in the workplace—but not at the expense of health and safety. They also must balance the happiness of associates—who are often in positions to bolt for greener pastures if they don’t like the arrangement. Work from Morgan Stanley would be great; but if you don’t have lawyers to staff it, then you lose regardless.
My column discusses the changing legal marketplace and how various in-house legal departments are doling out work these days. I was entertained by reading my own earlier piece on the same subject, drafted in 2008, to see what was important then and what has changed. I also asked a few in-house colleagues to give me a Top 5 list of what they look for. Courtney Fong, chief legal officer and chief privacy officer at CompTIA, offered a real-life, realistic list of what he considers.
And not to ruin a good thing but having friends in the right places is still the most direct route to generating new business from corporate counsel. Just yesterday, a CEO asked me to direct him to a corporate attorney in a specific geographic market. And in a recent project, a law firm quite proud of a new client across the country, finally referenced that the GC making the selection was the best man in your wedding. So, have lots of friends in high places. Otherwise, all is not lost. There are ways to position your firm for success with corporate legal departments. Just remember that one size does not fit all.