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November 29, 2007

Why superior work alone doesn't matter.

Steve Jobs: "We have better stuff!"

Bill Gates: "You don't get it. That doesn't matter."

--1984 conversation, after an angry Jobs realized that Microsoft's Windows software borrowed some of Apple's concepts, according to 1999 movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley, likely apocryphal, and 100% instructive.

It just doesn't matter. We have a hokey saying at our firm, Hull McGuire. A good client needs to "Be Safe, Feel Safe". If a client does not feel safe, it won't fully embrace and appreciate you or your firm. Without the comfort of feeling safe, it won't impress the in-house counsel of your client that the last memo you sent it by you and your ex-U.S. Supreme Court clerk was dead-on, groundbreaking, brilliant, or that your firm is expertly implementing the suggested strategy. The client won't care--and it shouldn't care. (It is paying for that.) To feel safe, and to stay as a client with your firm, it must believe that you and that associate genuinely care about and look out for that client like a parent would for a child 24/7. It's personal--based on a trust that transcends legal and ethical concepts.

Obviously, the quality of our actual services and products--advice, opinion letters, transactions, litigation results, settlement terms, etc.--needs to be first-rate. That's the "Be Safe" part. And it's wonderful if you can be the best at anything. But you won't keep even the most sophisticated, no-nonsense, button-down, linear-thinking, Western-logic-loving business client, CFO or GC who uses outside legal talent every day unless the client both appreciates your work and is comfortable both with the work and you. This is especially true for clients that select professional help on the basis of true quality and expertise, and not price. It's true whether your firm has 3 or 3,000 lawyers, stockbrokers, accountants, sales clerks, service employees, relationship managers or anyone else at the point of contact for a customer or client.

Posted by JD Hull at November 29, 2007 11:59 PM


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