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Three recommendations for how to handle references by vendors

In the latest issue of Met. Corp. Counsel, April 2010 at 21, two authors from a software vendor make three suggestions for law departments to consider when they check vendor references. The first two apply equally to references from law firms.

  1. “[C]reate a list of questions to ask references, because it is often hard to get a second conversation.” Also because you want to have thought through the information you seek before you pick up the phone and call. (See my post of Sept. 21, 2005: vendor references to clients; and June 4, 2008: general counsel need to give vendor references.).
  2. “[I]nform the vendor about the types of companies with whom you want to speak. Ask for peers within companies and provide the vendor with a list or your trusted outside counsel to see if any are their clients.” Whenever you choose a service provider, you have a right to request specific types and numbers of references (See my post of Feb. 6, 2007: troubling thought about references given by legal departments; Nov. 11, 2007: different viewpoints on disclosure of most-used firms; and Nov. 17, 2008: thoughts on references given.)
  3. “[R]equest to attend the vendor’s customer advisory board session.” How much do you want to guess that this particular vendor has such a board and such sessions? Even so, you need to learn about the user base of the service provider and how they influence the vendor’s development and support activities (See my post of Sept. 18, 2006: advantages of user groups; Nov. 13, 2007: network effects and law department management; and Nov. 18, 2007: various forms of vendor support.).