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How to Keep a New – and Prized – Client

How to Keep a New – and Prized – Client

Getting the relationship right with a new client can often be difficult.  The difficulty of getting it right is accentuated with a major new client, with a large team of lawyers working with multiple stakeholders on the client-side, often layered through the client’s internal hierarchy.

This short article explores a tried and tested way to increase the likelihood of a smooth-running client relationship – through a facilitated ‘Norming’ Workshop, aimed at getting the relationship going on the right footing, or at strengthening an existing relationship.

In 2009, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Freshfields) was appointed as the official law firm for the London 2012 Olympics, having won the role in a tender process organised by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).  The firm provided an agreed quantum of services for free as part of a sponsorship agreement.  Several Freshfields lawyers were provided on secondment to LOCOG and in addition Freshfields provided legal advice as an external counsel to LOCOG’s specialised team of lawyers.

This was an important and high profile piece of work and both Freshfields and LOCOG were anxious to get the relationship right.  Early on in the relationship, LOCOG’s General Counsel decided with the Freshfields’ relationship partner to bring the two teams of lawyers together in a workshop facilitated by external consultants (of which I was one), so as to give the relationship the best chance of functioning at an optimal level.

It is well-established that new teams – including groups brought together as ‘one’ team – go through a staged process often described as forming, storming, norming and performing.  Not all teams make it to the third or fourth stages of this process. Some get stuck in ‘storming’ mode, i.e. dysfunctionality. This is obviously disastrous for optimal working outcomes.

Another challenge of bringing two groups together is the risk of those groups operating as silos – when this is the case each group operates as an autonomous silo or bubble and members of the other group are viewed as ‘out’ group members rather than members of the ‘in’ group or team.   This is similarly poor for optimal working outcomes.

Why a facilitated ‘Norming’ Workshop?

The main advantages to your firm are:

In the case of the Freshfields / LOCOG engagement, it was particularly important to get the relationship right, with the looming deadline of the 2012 Olympic Games – and very limited room to correct if anything went wrong along the way.

Some additional – and less obvious – advantages:

Getting the ‘Norming’ Workshop right requires careful planning and coordination between the law firm and its client:

The key to all of the above is to assemble a small working team to plan the workshop – this should consist of the external consultant or consultants and key stakeholders from both law firm and client (usually no more than one or two from each).

For further information or to discuss the issues in this article, please contact Jonathan Middleburgh at Middleburgh@edge-international.com or on +44(0)7973 836343