3 Tips for Strengthening your Client Relationships

Smaller budgets, novel legal issues, and remote relationships are the new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and creating strong relationships with your clients is more important than ever.

We talked with Jason Barnwell, Associate General Counsel and Director of Legal Operations of Microsoft, about his three tips for being an invaluable parnter for your clients during this time.

1. Understand the context of your clients’ challenges

For Jason, the outside counsel that stand out are very empathetic to what Microsoft is trying to accomplish. “What I really enjoy is when they say, ‘Hey, what are you trying to solve? What are you trying to accomplish? Hmm, I have an idea on how we could do that together,’” Jason says.


2. Collaborate to create flexible billing arrangements

In a time of reduced and highly scrutinized budgets, legal teams are being forced to make their dollars stretch farther. Jason explains that “The billable hour causes firms to make more money as they throw hours at our problems, but we just don’t think that it creates aligned incentives.”


3. Call out unnecessarily repetitive work, to help your clients save money.

Show your clients how you are bringing efficiency into the delivery of legal services. For Jason, “The goal is to get people out of the mode of ‘we ask you the same question twice, you give us the same answer twice, and we pay you twice.’”


Listen to our interview with Jason Barnwell on the Modern Lawyer Podcast to hear more about how the legal department can be an asset to a company’s executives, and go from being a cost center to a business partner.

The Modern Lawyer Podcast

What Your Clients are Thinking

Jason Barnwell, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft, explains why he tries to structure his relationships with outside counsel as partnerships rather than a supplier or vendor relationship, and the signals he looks for that a firm will be a good partner to him. You’ll also find out why Jason believes “The billable hour is a shackle on innovation and efficiency,” and what Microsoft is moving toward to replace it.

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