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Questions to Ask a New (or Existing) Client That Will Enable You to Better Meet the Client’s Needs

After reading the client’s website, studying what you can find about the client (both good and bad) online, and perhaps calling anyone in your personal network connected with the client’s industry, here are some suggested questions to deepen your understanding of what the client is all about.
Let your curiosity guide you.  If you are wondering about something, it is probably a good question.

Questions to Ask a New (or Existing) Client That Will Enable You to Better Meet the Client’s Needs
(1) What is your business model?  How do you make money?  I see online that you do X.  Is that the bulk of your business?
(2) I see you are in X Industry.  Do you do domestic or international? Retail or wholesale?  What stage of the X process do you focus on – the beginning or the end?
(3) How long have you been in business?
(4) How big is the company? [THIS CAN BE ANSWERED AND FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS REFINED IN MANY WAYS] How many customers, gross sales, in comparison to their competitors, etc.
(5) What is your workforce like?  How many employees do you have?  Do you outsource?
(6) Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes you?
(7) What, in general, are your company’s current problems?  What do you worry about?  What keeps you up at night?  Do you face threats from the economy, from legislation and regulation, from public relations issues?
(8) What are your general plans for the company’s future?
(9) Who are the decision makers in your company?
(10) Are the decision makers at odds with one another?  In other words, does your company have any competing agendas or directions that it would be helpful for me to understand?

Next, are examples of some even deeper questions that we at Itkowitz PLLC will likely seek answers to when representing a new client.

Fundamental Internal Questions A Law Firm Should Ask Itself at the Beginning of an Engagement
(1) What battlefields will the engagement be fought on - in the courts, in an arbitration, in the press?
(2) What is really at stake for this client?  Is this a routine matter, or an existential litigation?
(3) Are there personal as well as business related motivations involved in the case?
(4) What is the back-story between the parties, the history?
(5) What is the client not telling me yet?
(6) What is really going on here?
(7) Why is the firm taking this case?  Are we going to make money?
At many firms (not Itkowitz PLLC), associates’ roles are narrow, and their contact with senior lawyers and clients is so limited that the big picture of the engagement they are working on is obscured from them.  If you are an associate at such a firm and are far removed from the client, because of the structure of your firm -- That’s ok.  In that case, the same spirit of inquiry can still be of value.  Below we suggest ten slightly modified questions about the client and about the partner or associate for whom you work, which can be addressed to the partner or associate at an appropriate time.
Perhaps these questions could be introduced by saying, “In order to do a good job on the assignments you have given me, might I just ask you a few questions about the client and their industry, so that I can get a glimpse of the big picture?”

Ten Questions to Ask the Partner or Senior Associate You are Working with That Will Enable You to Better Meet the Client’s Needs
(1) What is our client’s business model?  How does the client make money?  I see online that they do X. Is that the bulk of the client’s business?
(2) I see the client is in X Industry.  Does it do domestic or international?  Retail or wholesale?  What stage of the X process does the client focus on – the beginning or the end?
(3) How long have you been representing this client?  Do you enjoy it?
(4) How big is the company?  [THIS CAN BE ANSWERED AND FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS REFINED IN MANY WAYS]  How many customers, gross sales, in comparison to their competitors, etc.
(5) What does the client outsource?
(6) Who are the client’s main competitors and what distinguishes the client from them?
(7) What, in general, are the client’s current problems?  Does the client face threats from the economy, from legislation and regulation, from public relations issues?
(8) Where would you suggest that I look to find more information about this industry or this client?
(9) What would you, as a senior lawyer serving this client, want me, a junior lawyer, to know?


(10) What are the client’s goals?

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