A Cleary Gottlieb partner has made plain how he thinks fee-earners should deal with client expectations: raise them.

Stopping short of telling them to grease up and bend over in reception, Michael McDonald has emailed the firm's trainees and associates instructing them how to "superplease" clients. His covering note warns nervous recipients that they need to start superpleasing "internal clients" too, i.e. partners like him:

McDonald's manifesto contains some sensible advice and plenty of harmless blah ("Be a solution finder"), but staff might be advised to ignore some of the other tips. Like the ones requiring them to:

  • give out their personal mobile phone numbers to clients so they can "always reach you"
  • "adjust holiday plans if essential to the client"
  • "be attentive to their personal needs if they are under stress". It is unclear if this extends to a back rub, a dance or dressing them up as a baby and feeding them rusks*.
Other tips are more likely to make clients superfreak out. McDonald apparently expects fee-earners to:

  • "make it personal" on a client's birthday
  • entertain clients "preferably with spouse/partner"
  • regularly call or visit clients "off-deal"
  • send clients "topical press clippings (drawing to their attention legal aspects)". Because who doesn't appreciate getting an annotated sheaf of Estates Gazette articles from the lawyer who gave them one half of a broken heart locket and calls them every week trying to arrange a double date.
Insiders told RollOnFriday they are particularly superpleased with McDonald's suggestion that they should "set realistic deadlines" and then "always exceed them". Here's the full list, to stick on your fridge:

    *But Cleary staff should be aware that as an internal client Michael McDonald expects the same attentive treatment.
    Tip Off ROF


    Anonymous 08 March 13 08:16

    Most of this is just common sense, but all the personal stuff is worrying. If a service provider always sent me birthday cards I would either think he was nuts, a stalker, or desperate for my business. Or all three.

    This whole 'make it personal' ethos is so cheesy and phoney, and it transgresses a line that I think shouldn't be crossed. I don't want someone who provides legal work to me pretending he's my friend or that he's somehow part of my social life.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 08:56

    Can't believe this guy expects the same because he sees himself as an 'internal' client. He must have a massive ego. Must be overcompensating for something...

    Anonymous 08 March 13 09:31

    Anyone who has the time to put together a list like this clearly isn't that busy super pleasing their external clients

    Anonymous 08 March 13 10:13

    Give Unsolicited good ideas?

    That's a f***ing terrible idea. And, more to the point, conflicts directly with my LaVeyan life philosophy.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 10:21

    I actually think this really good advice. At around £600 an hour, actually I want decent customer service (but actually it should be the case no matter how much you pay). I’m a GC (who still reads ROF to be keep in with the kids) and one of the reasons that I am instructing US firms more and more is that the level of client service massively surpasses the UK firms. That customer service also extends to things like delivering on time, being available (and yes this does include weekends and evenings and even sometimes on holiday if it is proportionate) and most importantly accepting responsibility when things don’t go right rather than being defensive. “Making in personal” also does mean that I think of a firm before others – yes the work needs to be good – but most city firms are. None of this means a firm needs to be someone’s gimp or go over the top with false praise (that’s bad also) but ignoring the customer is done at the peril of any business. Hopefully as lawyers we are smart enough to see we are in a very competitive service industry.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 10:35

    @ anonymous user 08/03/2013 10:21

    Sorry, but you sound like an awful client to work for. You say you don't want gimps, but the truth is you want someone at your beck and call (e.g. I want to call you when you are on holiday - are you a sadist?), not just someone who delivers good work on time (which is a given in any case).

    And the tacit warning about being in a 'competitive' industry seems to indicate you actually quite like the idea of people fighting over you. (Nice...!)

    PS I'm still not sending you a birthday card.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 11:35

    @ anonymous user 08/03/2013 10:21

    "None of this means a firm needs to be someone’s gimp or go over the top with false praise (that’s bad also) but ignoring the customer is done at the peril of any business."

    Agreed - and what you're advocating is firmly towards the gimpery end of the scale.

    "I’m a GC."

    Congratulations. Your mother must be very proud. Luckily for those in private practice, there are plenty of us in the in-house world who expect good service without us forgetting that paying someone £600/hour (and heh @ that, haven't you heard of fixed fees?) doesn't entitle you to be on call.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 12:42

    Okay, so there are a few crazy ideas on this list - not sure re birthdays etc. But most of these things are what rainmaker partners do anyway ...

    And sorry, many lawyers, even though they are adults, do not just go ahead and build relationships with their clients.

    Wake up kids, you are not in ivory towers any more , sitting around waiting for clients to rush over to you and pay £££s for advice of questionable commercial applicability.

    What is more interesting to me (and why I left law) - if Mr McDonadld's trainees/junior staff actually DO build relationships, cross-sell and actively identify client needs , will this be factored into promotions or will they revert to billable hours anyway?

    Anonymous 08 March 13 15:29

    "Sorry, but you sound like an awful client to work for. You say you don't want gimps, but the truth is you want someone at your beck and call (e.g. I want to call you when you are on holiday - are you a sadist?), not just someone who delivers good work on time (which is a given in any case)."

    If work needs to be done when I am holiday, I get it done (maybe not me, but someone). And if the deadline is when you’re on holiday, then it’s not on time is it. I’m not an awful client to work for. I have the Christmas Cards to prove it. Better get back to beating up the team and getting them to work through the weekend. I think whats-his-name, is getting married or something, have to put a stop to that. Smithers.

    “I’m a GC. Congratulations. Your mother must be very proud.”

    Thanks. Seriously she is. Only getting into Slytherin made her happier. Hope it’s the same for you when you finish your LPC. Boom.

    Anonymous 08 March 13 17:15

    My wife gets very upset when I stay up late at night with a box of kleenex, super pleasing my internal clients in the living room

    Roll On Friday 08 March 13 18:00

    Actually I do a huge number of these.

    Some I am just not prepared to and have more than enough work without ever socialising with clients in any way. if that loses me some who want to be out entertaining then I am very lucky not to be saddled with them as I don't like doing that. There are more than enough who don't want to do that themselves.

    Anonymous 10 March 13 06:43

    On the one hand, this inane, newspeak laced missive encapsulates all I hate about law. Specifically, the expectation that in return for a salary which, whatever the papers think, really ain't all that special, we will prostrate ourselves night and day to kowtow to the whims of the grey faced ingrates with half our education or intellect collectively styling themselves the "clientele". At a human level, it does rankle.

    On the other hand, some of the things that are presented in this article as egregious demands make me goggle at how out of touch or self-entitled - or both - modern lawyers are. Calling clients "off deal" to catch up with them - who, over 3PQE and possessed of any sense, doesn't do this as a matter of course? "giving clients your personal mobile"? Oh God what an imposition! I dont even HAVE a "personal" mobile, my blackberry is all i have. Etc.

    That we have seemingly raised a few generations of city lawyers who seem to find the requirement to develop and nurture a client base appalling - indeed, alien to the concept of being a lawyer, or so it seems - is remarkable and regrettable. Do you really think that in the good old days, back when law was a profession not a business (haw haw), people could sustain careers as solicitors without having an eye on staying close to their clients? Back when the legal limit to the number of partners in a law rim was 20, do you really think it was possible to be a successful senior solicitor without being concerned with the development of a book of business? Oh and by the way, back the. You were xpcted to be a partner - with the expectation of bringing in work to match the title - at about 3 years qualified. The expectation that one can enjoy a lengthy and lucrative legal career without ever worrying about business development is a product of the 20 spoiled years post big bang. Anyone who actually practised law in the days to which today's wannabe bufties hark back would scoff at such notions.

    Anonymous 12 March 13 13:49

    As a lawyer for 20 years and then a client for almost that long, I have to applaud this fellow for even giving thought to the concept of client satisfaction. The most important advice is that the lawyer's success is tied to the client's success. Anyone interested in a more intensive look at these issues should check out ClientConsultLLC.com. BTW, don't remember my birthday; that's sucking up.

    Anonymous 12 March 13 17:03

    I have some other rules he should add that I think would go well on that list:

    (1) Ask your client what cologne/perfume s/he would prefer you wear;
    (2) Carry dairy-free organic dog biscuits should they attend a meeting with their dog;
    (3) Fill your pockets with rose petals so that you may sprinkle them infront of your clients feet as they walk;
    (4) Be sure to bow until your head is below the knees to any partner. If you have a bad back drop to one knee with your head bowed or grovel;
    (5) Be prepared to offer a client or partner bum sex at any time;
    (6) Take your client on a romantic river cruise;
    (7) Attend all meetings with grapes and a palm leaf. If you could also find a lounge chair to lug around that would be helpful.

    Anonymous 13 March 13 12:08

    A lot of clients dont want this over attention.

    There are good clients and bad clients. The latter are a painful and costly nuisance.

    The best thing is to find mutual interests outside the work front.

    However cowtowing to a client is perceived as a sign of weakness.

    There have been some dreadful cases of sexual relations with clients.

    A City partner and his leading client (both male) were prosecuted for public sex not so long ago

    Anonymous 14 March 13 13:21

    I’m just amazed as to the disparage between what private practice law firms / lawyers think is good customer service and the reality which is that it is incredibly poor. I’m not saying that there needs to deference, but there often a massive level of arrogance and unhelpfulness particular from the more traditional UK firms.

    Essentially, the market will dictate who is right on this debate. However Harvard Business School might just have a better take than trainees / jr lawyers who clearly don’t really have to manage client relationships. No one is saying that this stuff needs to be taken to extremes.

    “However cowtowing to a client is perceived as a sign of weakness.”

    This comment actually speaks volumes – it’s not about being combative with your client or trying to be stronger etc. It is not a battle between two silverbacks. The reality is that it is up to the client as you whether they accept your advice and act on it or indeed use a particular firm (let’s leave panels aside for a minute). They are the client - so many lawyers forget this.

    “There have been some dreadful cases of sexual relations with clients.”

    Are you really suggesting that “super pleasing” includes sexual favors – ridiculous.

    Anonymous 19 January 19 09:01

    Cleary seem to want their staff to bend them over and be rewarded with allowing them to leave early from time to time. Mr Sarkar and co really are a bunch of unrealistic ass-h*les.