Society 54 gives you direct access to what In-House Counsel want from their lawyers and law firms. The Q&A below is from a recent interview we conducted with Michael Ziemer, Partner at ParsecFinancial.
Q: What factors influence whom you hire as your legal counsel? Or choose counsel to send a referral?
A: At Parsec Financial we quite often refer our clients to local/regional Estate Planning attorneys. The main factor for creating the initial relationship with an attorney is typically a referral from a fellow Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). After the initial introduction/referral, it is important for us to get a better understanding of the attorney’s specialty and process for working with families. We believe that the best client experience is delivered not only by satisfying the client’s primary legal need but also by matching personalities on a more personal/social basis.

Q: What are some things that legal counsel have done that have made a positive impression and/or impact when working with you?
A: Although we are referring our clients to outside firms for legal counsel, both we and our clients see the attorney as an extension of the client’s financial advisory team. I have worked with several attorneys that are open to the idea of a financial team and a few who were not. When an attorney is open to the idea of working with the client’s financial advisor and CPA, it creates a much better client experience. This positive client experience allows us to better retain our clients and opens the door for future referrals and repeat client business for the attorney.

Q: Do you or your company care if your (or those to whom you send a referral) legal counsel is a super/best/elite lawyer?
A: Rarely do we pay attention to any of these services. I am not sure if these ratings are objective or pay to play. It never hurts to see the ratings when working with an attorney, but I don’t give much credence to the ratings themselves.

Q: What advice would you give to a junior associate at a law firm?
A: Network, Network, Network. As stated above, I am much more likely to work with an attorney who was referred to me rather than picking someone off a list.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes legal counsel can make when working with you or your clients? (What should law firms avoid?)
A: Lack of willingness to work as a team and lack of communication are the biggest mistakes I have seen when working with attorneys. In the 24/7 world of information that we work in today, our clients expect a high level of communication. When we refer a client to a professional who does not effectively set expectations and communicate, it has a direct effect on our client relationship.

Before joining Parsec in 2004, Michael worked as an investment representative for Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and is on the finance committee for Susan G. Komen Charlotte. In addition to earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in finance from Indiana University, the Indiana native studied abroad at the American College of London in London, England. His focus overseas was international business. He has also completed professional studies at the College of Financial Planning.