Every senior-level attorney has had the experience—whether in a formal law firm “beauty contest” or more casual setting—of pitching a new client on why they should use their firm. They tout their firm’s talent (and possibly their own) and appeal to the wealth of experience they have in working with similarly situated clients. Almost every lawyer acts out some variation of this—and in the process, virtually none of them stand out.
Lawyers are notoriously creatures of habit. They would seldom be considered early adopters. They are therefore slow to recognize that this antiquated approach to selling to in-house clients has grown stale and ineffective. It fails as a differentiation tool—if it ever was successful in the first place.
This approach ignores the amount of pressure put on in-house teams, both on cost and to demonstrate how they are adding value to their corporate constituents. When law firm attorneys present their rehearsed monologues of self-praise, they disregard a simple way to differentiate themselves by talking about their prospective clients instead of themselves.
Benefits of Addressing Client-Specific Challenges
In light of multiple mergers and the formation of an increasing number of megafirms, the truth is that almost every lawyer pitching to large corporate clients is excellent. Clients expect a terrific pedigree and relevant industry experience. These are now table stakes. The lawyer who speaks to the challenges of each individual client is the one who will rise above the pack.
The attorneys who distinguish themselves go above and beyond to walk in the shoes of prospective clients, and work to understand their pain points and areas of focus. Some of that information can come from public filings, quarterly reports, and news articles providing industry analysis. But remember, your competitors will likely be consulting the same sources.
How an Industry Expert Can Help
The insightful, modern lawyer looks to transcend the mainstream. They ask: What is the prevailing regulatory environment this prospective client is operating in and what about that might change in the near-term? What do their competitors think of them and see as their weaknesses? What can former colleagues of the company help explain about the culture or the way decisions are made?
To get answers to these questions, a small but growing number of lawyers speak to experts on the company, industry, or regulatory environment. These firsthand sources can tell them what reading dozens of articles or filings cannot.
Though litigators are familiar with using expert witnesses to inform finders of fact about complex subjects, lawyers generally do not leverage the power of firsthand insight to help inform decisions, including how to approach business development and pitching clients. Between law firm alumni networks, LinkedIn connections, and third-party firms that can help locate and provide access to experts with such knowledge, attorneys have no excuse for not using first-person intelligence to gain an advantage on their competition.
In a world where most major law firms can bring wide-ranging expertise to any engagement, understanding the industry-specific challenges of each potential client through the eyes of first-person experts is one of the only differentiators still available to the lawyer looking to impress.