Challenges For Lawyers: Stepping into the Client's Shoes

Challenges For Lawyers: Stepping into the Client's Shoes

This series of reflections are based on a work developed as complementary handouts for workshops on M&A topics realised originally for the AIJA Winter Session of 2020.

As a business psychological consulting team, we would like to contribute to this session offering you some insights based on our specific studies in social and business psychology as well as on the experience gained with clients in similar roles to yours.


Starting from the briefing offered us by your colleague, we understood that one of your goals might be to step into the client's shoes.

The in-house counsel's challenges; when the team is larger than the team: embracing and leveraging organizational complexity is not always easy. How to assess and support our organizational interlocutor’s needs and goals?


One thing you and your organizational counter-role part, the in-house counsel, might have in common is to be seen as the naysayer. So your first goal should always be to bear this in mind. You may refer to the handout that accompanies the anti-trust session and apply it for your in-house’s benefit as well.


An other peculiar threat for in-houses is being seen as the over-spender. From a director's perspective, who owns has a more restricted budget for consulting and who does not ask consultants to do their job, in-house lawyers are basically making others (you) do their job. We know this to be wrong, but we have to be aware of these thoughts in order to work against them. One way is to always make sure the in-house lawyer can make her/his contribution easily evident to his internal clients.


Here is a simple 3-step approach to help them and in the same time deeply understand what they expect from you:


1.   Although we started by stating some general commonalities, we need to go deeper, and avoid the risk of Biases (see the handout for the Tax session). Make it about their specific situation, not about in-houses in general.

2.   As you are collecting the briefing insert a stakeholder mapping. Just draw a circle in the middle of a blank paper that represents the in-house; ask her/him to identify all stakeholders, both within and outside the company; the more a stakeholder is relevant the nearer you draw her/him as a circle on the paper.

3.   Use the stakeholder map as a reference when you discuss issues or when you prepare documents to share internally.


Share this tool with your client and make it your team’s tool. We will present this technique during our session on Saturday in a life -workshop version.


We are well aware that these inputs are just the tip of the iceberg. They are meant as a teaser and starter for your own reflections.