May 2010

When I was a kid playing football, the coach told me to play line.  I was big for my age, so it made sense.  During the season, our starting running back was hurt and coach told me to play running back.  I objected, because I had never done so before.  He looked at me and

Jeff Carr, the General Counsel of FMC Technologies, loves to quote a comment made to him a while back by Ralph Palumbo of Summit Law Group in Seattle.  Over dinner one night, after more than a glass of wine, Ralph said to Jeff, "you are my most important, least significant client."  Jeff admits that his first thought was that he had been dissed, but then he realized what a great compliment Ralph had paid him.  Ralph’s revenue from FMC Technologies was far less than most other clients, but he recognized that Jeff was a "teaching client."  Among the many things Ralph (and others, like me) have learned from Jeff:

1.  Budgets are everything for General Counsel, so they have to be everything for outside counsel too.

 2.  Use business tools to speak to business persons.  For example, use decision trees.

 3.  Speed of resolution counts for a lot.  The company is not in the business of litigating and litigation is a distraction.

There is so much more that the Company’s outside counsel has learned, earning FMC Technologies the designation of "teaching client."  It’s not about the revenue, its about the value in the lessons Jeff and his team have taught.


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One of my partners was telling a story to some people we were visiting with at the Inside Counsel SuperConference.  As he said, it was a "classic Pat Lamb meeting" with an e-discovery vendor.  The meeting starts without me and the vendor’s sales people are talking about how great their product is and how much

I will be joining Jeff Carr of FMC Technologies, Mary Clark of LexisNexis, and Terry Gavulic of Competitive Advantage on a panel discussing Value Fees and how to make them work.  Follow the entire conference on twitter by searching #ICSC10 (which translates into # Inside Counsel Super Conference 2010).  This is an example of how Twitter can be used to give you highlights of an event you can’t attend but where ideas you’d like to hear will be shared.


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Last week inExample Of Really Bad Client Service, I told the story of my colleague’s really bad experience with Bank of America.  Per my custom, I tweeted about my post.  A number of people retweeted my tweet, and eventually one of them included @BofA_Help on the retweet.  @BofA_Help is described as "official Bank of America twitter reps, here to help (sounds like that old joke "we’re from the government and we’re here to help"), listen and learn from our customers."    These folks have tweeted over 9,000 times and they actually tweeted "thank you for letting us know" about the story of the assault by B of A on my colleague’s accounts.

My post included my colleague’s name and our firm name, so any third grader could figure out Lisa’s email address.  I just checked with her, and no one from B of A so much as sent her an email saying there were sorry.  So let me be clear of the B of A twit people–saying you are there to help and listen and learn is different from actually doing those things.  Just like saying you care about your customers is different than, say, actually caring about them.

B of A: swings and misses again.  Lame.


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My colleague got married on January 2nd and changed her name from Lisa Castle to Lisa Carter (huge monogram savings).  Now as unique as Lisa is, you can imagine that there are a few Lisa Carters in the world.  Some of them have chosen to bank at Bank of America.  Unlike Lisa Carter of Valorem, one of the other Lisa Carters apparently had a judgment entered against her.  So you can imagine the surprise of Lisa Carter of Valorem when she checked her account balance at Bank of America and saw all zeroes.  Her accounts, both checking and savings, had been frozen in response to a judgment against an unrelated Lisa Carter who also happened to live in Chicago and maintain an account at B of A.  It took Valorem’s Lisa Carter an entire week, countless unfruitful calls to B of A and intervention by one of her colleagues to get to the bottom of the situation.  Even after B of A acknowledged their mistake and restored her funds, they placed yet another unexplained freeze on her accounts thus depriving her of her funds for an additional twenty four hours.

It is hard to imagine a bigger screw up by B of A (ok, that subprime mortgage mess may have been bigger).  Even if you can, this is still a big screw up.  Failure to confirm addresses, social security numbers and other details that would allow them to distinguish the account of people with the same names.  Seem pretty fundamental to sound banking practices.  And yet  they screwed the pooch big time.

So what did Bank of America say to Lisa?  Did they give her a free toaster as they might if she opened a new account?  A week’s worth of free checking?  An APOLOGY (gasp, the horror)?  Nope. Not a thing.  Notta.

Needless to say, Lisa’s money is now earning interest in another financial institution.  I hope that B of A becomes aware of this post and experiences a moment of chagrin.  They won’t, of course, but one can always hope.  In the area of customer service, at least with Bank of America, hope is all there is.



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