‘It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint’: How to Get and Keep Good Corporate Clients

“With respect to winning clients in the first place, getting out there is key. Networking and speaking at conferences and participating on industry organization committees is a must, but taking a long term approach is more effective than trying to pick up as many clients as possible at one event.”

Yesterday’s IPWatchdog webinar, sponsored by Anaqua, hinged on the statistic that 70% of in-house counsel surveyed by the American Bar Association in 2012 would not recommend their primary outside counsel to others and 87% would replace their current firm if given a good reason.

After cringing at these numbers, IPWatchdog’s Gene Quinn asked panelists Bart Eppenauer, Managing Partner in the Seattle office of Shook Hardy and former Microsoft Chief Patent Counsel, and Benjamin Brown, Assistant General Counsel of IP at Analog Devices, Inc., what firms should be doing better.

The key is not to become complacent, said both Eppenauer and Brown.

“Once in the door, the relationship needs constant care and feeding,” noted Brown. When complacency sets in, “that’s when it gets dangerous.”

“The legal industry needs to do a lot better,” said Eppenauer. As former Microsoft Chief Patent Counsel, Eppenauer has been on both sides of the client relationship coin. He said that the second biggest factor is communication—if complacency does set in over time, it is crucial to address it quickly and directly. “It’s not enough to deliver quality work; go to your client and ask how things are going or you could find yourself on the way out.”

With respect to winning clients in the first place, getting out there is key. Networking and speaking at conferences and participating on industry organization committees is a must—although attorneys walking around “with a resume stapled to their forehead is a huge turnoff,” said Quinn.

While it may be tempting to collect dozens of cards and spam potential clients, taking a long term approach is more effective. The goal is to develop a persona over time, said Brown.

“Look for meaningful connections. Don’t look to pick up five clients in one conference. Accumulate relationships that will increasingly serve you and be yourself; it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Notably, best practices for maintaining relationships were largely the same across different types of work. Whether you’re offering patent prosecution, litigation, or counseling services, timeliness, quality, diverse teams, attention to budgets, and communication are all imperative.

All of this may seem somewhat obvious, but the ABA’s statistics demonstrate that firms are nonetheless falling far short.

The panelists’ full slide deck and a recording of the webinar are available for free here.

Join the Conversation

On Monday at 2:00 pm EST, Quinn will speak with Marco Richter of LexisNexis PatentSight during a webinar titled, “Advanced Patent Analytics: Like Taking a Look into a Digital Crystal Ball.” The free webinar will explore the ways that patent analysis can help to spot disruptive technologies and provide insight on company secrets early on, using the example of Palantir— one of Silicon Valley’s most secretive companies.

Register now for free to join the webinar on Monday.

Later in the week, Quinn and Megan McLoughlin, Patent Attorney and Product Director for PatentAdvisor, will discuss “Getting Past NO at the Patent Office: Using Patent Analytics to Overcome Objections.” Quinn and McLoughlin will address how to use the Patent Prosecution Highway to get a patent quickly, accelerated examination tactics, and drafting tips to help your patent sail through the USPTO. Register here to join the conversation on Thursday at 12:00 pm EST.


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