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Gender affects how general counsel buy legal services

Meeting gender-based requirements key to winning new work, research finds 

27 January 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Men and women have very different priorities when buying legal services, a global survey has found.

Male general counsel focus on a law firm's reputation and previous results, while their female counterparts favour firms that have an in-depth understanding of their business needs and are good at communication.

"Stereotypical approaches to new business and client service, based around masculine values and preferences, can jeopardise a firm's chances of winning work from female GCs," commented Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, which conducted the research.

"A change in thinking and culture is needed if men want to impress an increasingly influential group of female in-house counsel who value business understanding and efficient communication over reputation, personal relationships and trust when choosing their preferred legal partner."

The survey of over 2,000 general counsel found that men are around two-and-a-half times more likely than women to base their decision to buy legal services on their 'level of trust' in a firm.

Conversely, women cited 'understanding of my business' and 'knowledge of how I work' as significantly more important factors in determining share of legal spend.

For men, however, understanding of their business needs is substantially less important, with 'trustworthiness and reliability', 'experience and track record' being notably more influential in their decision making.

Closely allied to the female general counsel requirement for superior understanding is their desire for effective communication by law firms.

When asked to rate how effective law firms are at communicating, two fifths of men said they were 'delighted' with the way their firms interacted with them, giving a score of nine or ten points out of ten. By contrast, less than a third of women were as generous with their praise.

Quality of communication, speed of responsiveness and level of interaction were highlighted as vital by female in-house counsel.

When asked what would make them likely to recommend a firm, a much higher proportion of women than men noted that responsiveness is a deciding factor.

Men, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to recommend law firms on the basis of the standards they have in place, the qualifications held by their lawyers, the quality of their working relationship and their reputations.




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