This is a live post from the Ark Group/Managing Partner’s 9th Annual Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  This session is Refining the “Knowledge Advantage” and Getting Back Into Your Clients’ Inner Circle of Trusted Advisors with

  • Kevin E. Colangelo, Client Relations Officer, Proskauer Rose LLP,  [Moderator]
  • Matt Todd, ED/Global Head of Legal Business Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co,
  • Dana L. Gilbert, Senior Vice President, Chief Compliance Officer & General Counsel, N.A., Cognizant Technology Solutions

[This is a real time blog post.  Please forgive typos or inaccuracies.]

Q: What are key characteristics of trusted advisers?

Gilbert: Depends on the matter.  It comes down to relationships.  Things have not changed that much.  Firms need to understand the business (which explains value in long-term relationships).  Need high availability by phone or e-mail.  Trust outside counsel as much as you would internal colleague.  Want lawyers who consider business as well as legal side.

Todd:  JPM buys a huge spectrum of legal services.  Trusted adviser varies.  One word matters most: outcome.  To get good outcome, firms must know banking and JP Morgan.  Outcome requires “exceptional attorney”.  Outside counsel must be extension of inside team.  High availability of outside counsel is also key.  Three things Matt wants to know:  strongest practices, peers, technology.  KM is a smaller factor.

Q: Do you care how firms get to know you about you?

Answers: No.  We focus on outcomes and if outside counsel understand our business.  How they do it matter less.  No focus on “what happens behind the curtain”.

Q: What do the 2 of you do to gain trust of your “lawyer clients”?  What do your teams do?

Gilbert:  We need to know the company’s busy.  We train new lawyers on the business and company.  We have a formal training program.  We need to be responsive, 24×7 given that we are global.

Todd:  Know your business.  Must be expert in how to reply law.  Be able to see not just what can and can’t be done but what should be done.

Q: Do you ever admonish outside counsel for not knowing business or ‘just say bye”?

Gilbert:  We will always have a conversation first.  I compliment firms when they do a good job.

Todd:  We will admonish law firms when they come to table without sufficient business understanding.  One firm came to us last month as if the question was a law school exercise.  And firm did not listen when JP Morgan said it would not work.  If the client speaks, firms need to listen.

Kevin: “Active listening” is skill number one when selling.

Todd: We encourage our lawyers to provide feedback.  But inhouse lawyers have said to me that “we stopped working with that firm when they made a mistake last year.”

Todd:  JP Morgan offers classes to its outside counsel.  For example, last summer it offered a class to multiple outside counsel last summer on understanding with new Outside Counsel Manual.  Only one accepted the offer.  [RF: this is shocking!]

Q: Do outside counsel come to you with competitive intelligence about changes in legal spend to see if there an opportunity to win new business.

Answer:  No.

Q: What do you think about firms that bring really disciplined processes to table?

Todd: Depends on nature of matter.  If it’s high volume, definitely.  If it’s an SEC matter, much less important.  But for big regulatory or other matters, the bank does not want fee surprises.  So process around budgets and spending _is_ critical.

Gilbert: I see some firms have processes around some matters, e.g., class action or investigations.  It makes life easier when firms do have processes.   The lack of process around emergencies creates many challenges.