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April 24, 2014

Rule 7: "Where does the client sell?" "Who are its chief competitors?" "For which product lines?"

See Rule 7: Know the Client. Every great client wants you to know him, her or it.

Take time out to learn the client's stock price, day-to-day culture, key management figures, industry players, industry reputation, overall goals and major things it tells the Securities and Exchange Commission. The client is publicly-traded, you say? Wonderful. You have much to read, friend. Also get a feel for what other credible sources--the client's website and public filings are not enough--are saying out there about your client.

Visit the client's offices and plants, too, especially if the client is small or privately held. Seeing live operations and key players moving around and interacting speaks volumes. Early on, and for every client, see as much as you can in 3D. Hey, it's fun. Do it free of charge.

Learn something about the client's history. Get a grip on its past and true origins. How your Houston-based petroleum or gas drilling client started out in 1884 in Indianapolis making pumps for bicycle tires will make sense, and maybe put a few things together for you. Even more importantly, history may tell you lots about the client's corporate "personality" and "culture", now and during the past 130 years. You may discover why the client now behaves as it does with its employees, and with vendors and competitors, or why it has a certain reputation in the marketplace.

By the way, in established and larger companies, my take is that corporate cultures and personalities--the Good, the Bad and the Strange--rarely bear any relationship to the make-up, character and day to day actions of individuals who currently lead and manage the company. And even if I'm wrong about that, personality, culture and atmospherics are certainly worth knowing about.

Finally, as you work for the client, does the talented in-house lawyer, GC or other client representative you must answer to actually pick up on your newly-acquired knowledge, nuances and insights? Yes. Absolutely.


Posted by JD Hull at April 24, 2014 11:52 PM


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