What Corporates Want: client management
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What Corporates Want: client management

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Law firms that pay close attention to their client relationships are more likely to win repeat work, according to a survey of nearly 29,000 in-house counsel

Corporate counsel pay close attention to how much effort their external advisers put into understanding and effectively managing their needs, survey data of nearly 29,000 in-house professionals across Managing IP+ and its sister brands ITR+ and IFLR+ has revealed.

Of those who responded to the surveys, 98% said client management is important or very important to them, with 72% flagging it as very important. For intellectual property in-house counsel specifically, the results were identical.

Follow-up conversations with in-house counsel echo the findings of the surveys, with all sources agreeing that they are likely to pick and retain firms that go the extra mile to make their clients’ lives easier.

However, in-house lawyers’ views on what constitutes good client management practices do vary.

A senior in-house counsel at an IT company in the US said it matters a lot to him and his team how his external counsel interact with the organisation’s in-house inventors.

“I want our inventors to be treated like royalty. Our inventors are our clients, and I need our external advisers to have the same high regard for them that we do.”

He added that he has stopped working with a law firm that didn’t accommodate the company’s inventors well.

“It was a good firm, but I felt our inventors were not getting the white glove service we expected,” he explained.

However, the general counsel at a pharma company in India said that good client management translates to allocating resources to cases effectively, as well as honesty and transparency in billing practices.

Meanwhile, Cassandra Derham, associate IP director at IT company Amadeus in France, agreed that good billing practices are hugely important.

“Because ours is a big company, we have stringent billing needs and practices.

“A firm that can accommodate us is going to work much better than a firm that’s always sending its bills late or is unable to provide the data that we need to approve the bills,” she revealed.

Responsiveness is also crucial, she noted, adding: “When I have a question that I need answered in a day or week, I need someone who can answer that in a day or a week.”

Though in-house counsel may have different expectations from their external advisers on client management, it’s clear that firms must demonstrate they can go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd.


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Client management ranked very highly among in-house counsel’s priority lists across all regions.

Counsel from the Americas showed the most enthusiasm towards strong client management practices, with 78% of counsel flagging it as very important while picking external counsel.

Those from APAC and EMEA weren’t far behind, with 71% of counsel in both regions flagging it as very important.

Overall, 99% of counsel in the Americas marked client management as important or very important, followed by APAC at 98% and EMEA at 97%.

Compared to peers in other practice areas, IP counsel across different regions expressed only moderate interest in client management.

Of those who responded, APAC led with 59% marking client management as either important or very important while picking external advisers, followed by EMEA (58%) and the Americas (57%).

The Managing IP+ results contrast with the findings of the broader survey, in which Americas-based counsel showed more interest in client management than their peers in other regions.

Overall, the differences in values between all three regions were less than two percentage points, indicating in-house IP counsel are similarly placed on the importance of client management irrespective of where they are based.

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Overall, across all brands, the Americas produced the highest mean score at 93.7% with EMEA and APAC trailing closely at 91.9%.

Global revenue

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In terms of revenue distribution, companies across all the surveyed revenue brackets generated the same level of interest in client management, with 98% of respondents in each category saying it was important or very important to them.

The high percentage point suggests client management is a top priority for all corporates regardless of their earnings.

Among those who considered client management very important, companies with $500 million to $4.99 billion came on top, with 28% of the participants holding such an opinion. Companies in the remaining revenue categories expressed slightly lower but approximately similar levels of interest.

In the Managing IP+ survey, companies in the highest revenue bracket expressed the most interest in client management, with 63% of the participants flagging it as important or very important.

Companies with $50 million to $499.9 million came second, with 60% showing interest in client management, followed by those with less than $50 million (55%) and those with $500 million to $4.99 billion (54%) in global revenues.

More than a quarter of the respondents surveyed across all categories said client management practices were neither important nor unimportant when considering engaging a new firm.

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Overall, across all brands, companies in the highest and lowest revenue brackets generated the highest mean scores, at 92.3% each.


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From an industry perspective, most sectors expressed high interest in client management, with 98% marking it as important or very important. These include automotive and transportation, consumer, financial services, power and utilities, professional services, real estate and construction, technology and telecoms.

An average score of over 98% across all industries demonstrates that in-house counsel highly value good client management practices of external advisers.

The consumer sector led the groups that flagged client management as very important, at 75%. The professional services, real estate and construction, and technology sectors claimed the second position, with 73% of respondents from each industry showing interest.

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Overall, across all brands, the consumer industry expressed the most interest, with a mean score of 92.9%. The professional services, and real estate and construction industries weren’t far behind, with mean scores of 92.5% each.

Practice area

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As far as practice areas are concerned, litigation lawyers seem to be most keen on client management, with 99% of them saying it is important or very important.

Corporate counsel across all other practice areas demonstrated similar levels of interest, at 98%.

Overall, the difference of one percentage point across practice areas suggests corporate counsel, regardless of their area of expertise, pay considerable attention to the client management practices of their external counsel.

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In terms of mean scores, litigation survey participants showed the highest interest, at 93.9%.


Through our primary research with in-house counsel representatives, we ask them to rate a range of attributes and their importance in decision-making when selecting outside counsel.

We have aggregated the responses from our practice area-specific surveys in 2022 and 2023 and analysed the results in this report series. The data highlights the extent to which in-house counsels’ views on these attributes differ between industries, regions, revenue sizes and practice areas.

In total we have analysed responses from over 25,000 in-house counsel respondents over the two-year period.

To read the previous instalment of What Corporates Want, click here.


Special Projects Editor Managing IP
Sukanya manages the special projects published on Managing IP, including the IP Ones to Watch, 50 Most Influential People in IP and What Corporates Want. She also covers all IP-related issues in Asia including trademark, copyright, patent and design matters.
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