Illustration by geralt (Pixabay)

Editor’s Note: This post is the first of a two-part series aimed at educating Big Law professionals how to land business from a former law partner who has gone in-house. The first part lays out a scenario, and the second will offer solutions.   


By Murray M. Coffey, Chief Marketing Officer, Haynes and Boone LLP

It seems like the perfect way to expand your firm’s pipeline of new business. Longtime partner Jane has just announced that, after 20 years at the firm, she is taking the GC position with PubCo, a global maker of most things that most people need most of the time.

PubCo is in every regulated industry in every country on the planet and the financial services business unit is always right on the edge of the newest financial instruments. The firm has never done any business with PubCo and, even better, there appear to be few, if any, conflicts.

In Jane’s 20 years at the firm she helped build several, now keystone practices, and planned numerous partner retreats. Jane did not get tapped to head one of the practices she forged, but the firm has always flowed in Jane’s veins. Or at least you thought so. The reality is that Jane left the firm.

The goodbye parties are over, the last drop of The McCallan 30-year-old has been consumed with Jane and now it’s time to wait for her to send the firm its first engagements. After a quiet 90 days, a weighty overnight package from PubCo arrives. “Finally,” you think, “Jane has sent us the list of matters we will now handle under her new leadership.”

However, the overnight package contains three documents:

The first is a very formal, somewhat generically written letter explaining how thrilled Jane is to be part of PubCo. It explains how important their relationships are with the 465 firms currently sending bills to PubCo, and how they have engaged in a lengthy review of the company’s legal needs. Going forward, PubCo has decided that 90 percent of the legal work being handled by all of PubCo’ stable of outside firms can be more efficiently handled by no more than 20 firms. The remaining 10 percent of the legal work will be handled by specialty firms.

The letter then directs you to the second document: The 30-page consolidation RFP (responses due in six weeks) and goes on to reference the accompanying 40-page outside counsel guidelines document (which must be agreed to as written before the RFP response can be submitted.)

“WTF (why the formality) Jane?” you mutter.

Jane has not forgotten the 20 years she was your colleague. Jane has not forgotten the Scotch. And she probably has not forgotten being passed over for the practice chair role. One of the things you always liked about Jane was her savvy and ability to read a situation. Nothing has changed. Jane is giving you a shot at getting some of PubCo’s legal work. Yes, she isgiving you a shot.

Why can’t she just give you the work? Because, as much as Jane may want to steer work to you, she is under scrutiny and pressure to provide value to her new employer. For the first time in many years, Jane is an employee and not an owner.

Jane is now an adviser/strategist/manager and the head of a very expensive piece of PubCo, with little or no ability to generate its own revenue. She has inherited a team of lawyers with outside counsel relationships dating back, in some cases, for generations. And she has inherited something she never had in the past: Procurement professionals. And Jane is now realizing the power procurement wields in a corporate setting. These folks are charged with, among other things, making sure PubCo is getting the best service it can for the best price from the best quality providers, and generally in that order.

So now what happens?

Stay connected with Big Law Business for Part II to learn how to earn Jane’s business.