"Oh, you all made it. Great."
In-house lawyers have been revealing attempts by law firms to socialise with their clients, and their answers confirm the overwhelming importance of social skills.
"There's always the hope that they will cancel our drinks so I don't have to sit and make small talk," said one in-house lawyer. "Last time I was trapped with a Partner who talked in depth about the castration of his pet dog."
"As socially awkward as Mr Bean," said a client of their lawyer. "Although at least Mr Bean was amusing."
One client was disappointed in what their lawyers could offer for client entertainment: "I do miss being invited to private gallery and exhibition viewings and things like that which used to happen before. It would actually be nice to meet some of those we instruct more outside of a teams meeting - but not just for drinks, that's so dull and not enough of a draw to give up taking an earlier train home."
However, firms can take things too far, when looking to spice up an evening. "I got invited to a strip club by a London lawyer," said one in-house lawyer. "Ended up paying for his dances as he was so drunk the girls took advantage."
Clients objected to having to pay to spend time with their lawyers: "We accepted an invite to one of our externals to the new members of their team and have a catch up...they charged us for the drinks and sandwiches they put on."
While another in-house lawyer revealed that an evening with an associate was "charged as client entertainment," which was particularly perplexing, as they added: "How is watching a man dance in a gimp suit while fisting a parrot entertaining me?" A possible contender for most obscure perk of the survey; but it's still early days.
One respondent expected more of a firm when it came to offering grub at their premises: "Went to a law firm for training and lunch in the City last month and they put on a decent spread, but there were no cakes or sweet treats. Absolute barbarians."
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Nothing worse in client care than making small talk with a dull lawyer.
Especially when they claim their interests to be history and politics. So basically still close to law.
Not a client, but I have to meet a lot of private practice lawyers in my role and my analysis reveals (unsurprisingly) that the magic circle attracts the lawyers who are the most socially incompetent, with transactional being worse than contentious.
Last time I went on drinks with a law firm a NQ offered to explain to me how licensing transactions work. The fact we engaged them for litigation and that I have 20 years of licensing experience was obviously lost on him...
Bonding over pets and offering support if they have medical issues is normal. And a sign of being a caring person.
I wonder if that particular in-house counsel hasn’t some significant issues in the social skill area.
I would prefer to have drinks w that law firm partner than the in-house.
To be fair it's not just in-house lawyers. Having to socialise with counsel when their chambers put on events can be bad. Last time I had to try to make small talk with a pompous 70-year old silk. I'm far too lowbrow for that. Couldn't wait to escape.
I've met plenty of dull and uninteresting in-house lawyers and loads of super smart, interesting and engaging private practice lawyers. I think it is the lawyer element which is the problem, not whether in-house or private practice ... remember, it's the same people, from the same backgrounds, that have taken different paths in their career for different reasons.
I always think that if you want to impress your clients so they keep sending you work, at least try a little to push the boundaries of the corporate gifts/entertainment policy. The last one I went to, arm twisted, was a couple of beers at 4pm with finger food. Everyone had gone by 6. That doesn't impress me personally!
To Private Practice 19 May 23 12:04
I think I know that guy. Rowley Birkin. Can be enterteining at times though.
Tbf if they had personalities they wouldn't be working in private practice. That sort of thing is frowned upon by the equity
Taking clients out for drinks can be awful. Sometimes, they are as bad as the lawyers criticised for wanting to talk about the work endlessly.
Most of the time, though, my experience tells me that being a normal person who just wants to ask people a bit about themselves and have a nice chat comes as a pleasant surprise to clients, who end up quite enjoying themselves. It also makes them feel more at ease picking up the phone to me further down the road when they have stuff I can help them with. In the end, some of them send me more work than they would otherwise, because they think I'm nice.
This is all much harder when nobody is willing to see you ever. I'd be reluctant to accept an invite to hang out with lawyers for an evening, too, but some of us aren't all that bad. Honest...
Gotta love an inhouse lawyer...
Work in house for a well known health insurer.
Last year attended drinks with Mills & Reeves in Leeds. The location was a hotel named after a US state. It was so dark in that hotel it was like a railway tunnel. The food was awful - different types of cauliflower in disguise fried pickled etc...i jest you not.
I got trapped with a guy from the firm who talked at me ,(not to me) only about cycling and lyrca. It was worse than having teeth pulled.
My firm has a panel relationship with a number of firms and one firm in particular (with a real estate focus) used to frequently line up partners from other areas of law to ‘court’ us; one partner from the projects team was notorious in inviting members of the in-house team for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffees etc. it was brutal; we used to do rock, paper, scissors when an invite came in with the loser having to meet said partner. It was as if the partner viewed these troughing events as the building up of loyalty points with the end result being an instruction. The GC refused point blank to meet the partner and, to date, no mandate was ever given. We ended up feeling sorry for him as it was clear he was desperately trying to shore up a failing practice.
Rise of the Introverts continues. Ironic given that everyone knows in-house is where law’s shy bairns go to hide. I was briefly in-house (wasn’t enough of a social inadequate for it) and I used to love being taken out by law firms.
An associate offered to explain to me how licensing transactions work! I mean an associate! Licensing transactions! Me! Good heavens
Anon 19 May 23 14:11
To Private Practice 19 May 23 12:04
I think I know that guy. Rowley Birkin. Can be enterteining [sic] at times though.
Other pompous 70 year old silks are available.