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Client relationship scenarios described by senior practitioners in professional service firms

My client’s new general counsel doesn’t like us...

Q “One of the firm’s largest client in billings and profile has a newish general counsel who does not like us because we were very close to the previous general counsel and to a number of directors and she wants to have her own relationship lawyers and not just inherit the incumbents. We are now number 2 and no longer the preferred advisers, although most of the business units still consider us as the preferred advisers. Also, she refuses all overtures in respect of client entertainment or more business orientated get togethers. I am not sure I am her cup of tea.”

A You will need to get to the bottom of her dislikes – this could be done through sponsors within the client who may be able to give you more intelligence. An independent client relationship review might accelerate the process of identifying issues, personality clashes etc and remedial action which can be taken.

If it transpires that you are part of a personality clash, you may have to pass on the mantle of courting the General Counsel to someone who will make headway with her and who better matches her style and personality. The firm may also have to be satisfied with No 2 spot until her respect has been earned.

While she may be reluctant to meet up with you, is there a way you or one of your colleagues can arrange for her to be invited to an event attended by her peers in other companies in the sector (some of them may be existing clients of the firm) for example an industry ‘think-in’ at which those other clients’ views may help improve her opinion of your firm? .

The courting of the directors and business units should continue but in a manner that is sensitive to her role and current disposition to your firm. Openness will be vital to winning her respect and trust.

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