As outside litigation counsel, we are often brought in to represent new clients when they are on the receiving end of a fresh lawsuit. Jumping in to get a handle on the matter is key, but taking time to get to know your client and their business is also highly important. Here are the top ten things you should know about your corporate client:
- Their product or service.
Regardless of the nature of the matter, knowing the client’s business will put you in a stronger position to represent them. Go beyond what you can find out on the internet about their product. Visit their showroom or ask for a tour of their manufacturing facility. Ask to see a demo of their software, or better yet, try their product out for yourself. The client will appreciate you taking the extra step and you will gain an insider’s view of their product or service.
- Their industry.
Understanding your client’s position in their industry is crucial. What is their percentage of the market share? Are they a leader and key player or a newcomer on the scene? It is also important to understand any challenges facing the industry as a whole such as new regulations or pending legislation that may severely affect their business (and your case).
- Their competitors.
When you educate yourself about the client’s industry, you should naturally identify key players and your client’s competitors. Taking it one step further to learn more about their competitors will help you better understand their business and the challenges they might face. Find out who their competitors are and what kind of threat they present to your client’s business. Next, find out what kind of litigation they have been involved in recently – it may give you insight on what your client can expect.
- Their business goals.
If an initial public offering or big merger are in the client’s near future, this will drastically affect their approach to litigation. Is your client trying to grow their business or stand out against a new competitor on the scene? Knowing where your client wants to take their business will help you understand the significance of the litigation and the strategy they want to employ.
- Their goals in the litigation.
It is crucial to know what your client hopes to accomplish in the litigation. Are they looking for a quiet resolution to the dispute or do they want to take a stand to send a message to other potential future litigants?
- What is really at stake.
Your client’s goals in the litigation may shed light on their desired outcome, but understanding the big picture is crucial to satisfying your client’s needs. Litigation is often about more than what is directly at issue in the lawsuit. It can touch on employee relations, marketing strategy, and a host of other intangibles. Be open with your client about these issues. It will show them you understand and care about the business implications of the litigation.
- Their corporate culture.
While your client is the corporation, your direct contact may only be with a handful of people in its legal department. Understanding the culture of their department and the company as a whole will help you better understand the pressures and challenges your contacts face. Are they pushing back on the financial planning department to expand their legal budget or butting heads with the sales team over contract negotiations? Knowing what the legal team’s challenges are will help you offer solutions with their specific needs in mind.
- Their people.
You should develop a friendly-professional relationship with your contacts within the legal department. This will be a good way to get to know more about their work environment and what their priorities are. Also, develop a good rapport with the other people within the organization who you may have to work with during the course of the litigation. This will help you when conducting pre-litigation investigations or witness interviews.
- Their preferred communication style.
Does the client like email updates they can forward to their team? Do they prefer regular check-in calls with updates? If the relationship is new, ask these questions so you can make sure you are keeping the client informed about your work in the manner they prefer.
- Their financial health.
Admittedly, this one is as much for your own benefit as your client’s. Knowing your corporate client’s financial situation will guide you in selecting vendors and formulating a case plan, such that you and your consultants all get paid for your services and the client does not over spend on the litigation.
The key with most of these points is communication. The better your communication, the more likely you are to score a perfect “10.”