Lawyers: Don’t wait for the RFP process to communicate with prospective clients

Lawyers should not wait until the competitive tender process to communicate with prospective clients with information of unique value.  If they do, they’ll remain in an ocean of other firms all vying for new business in response to those competitive tenders.  By seeking to share information of value with new prospective clients outside the tender process, however, lawyers can singularly distinguish themselves as highly valued and trusted advisors to clients.  And win more business as a result.

BTI Consulting has studied the impact of this type of communication between lawyers and clients and identified that 2/3 of clients said they highly valued this unique information from lawyers during the tender process, as law firm business development Julie Fleming details on LinkedIn.

As BTI argues, however, lawyers shouldn’t wait for the tender process to provide clients with unique information – as much new client development can take place outside the tender process.  I agree with this assessment and have been conducting business development activities for clients for two decades where the prime focus is communication outside the tender process – utilizing unique, often instantly actionable commercial information – which clients can act upon and which will result in the law firm being retained by that client.  

I’ve previously written about how understanding your client’s business like this also permits lawyers to charge higher fees.

Below I’ll outline what one general counsel advises lawyers to do to win the attention of clients:

Types of unique information helpful to lawyers seeking to win new clients

An article by Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog outlines advice for law firms from Gregory B. Jordan,  former global managing partner of Reed Smith LLP and general counsel of PNC Financial Services Group Inc – on what types of information are most useful to clients when lawyers are seeking to attract their attention. They are: 

  • “Quick, timely updates on regulatory shifts…are useful…Reams of glossy marketing material, not so much.”
  • “Accounting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers are “eating law firms’ lunch” when it comes to briefing clients on upcoming challenges—including regulatory and legal shifts. “They have armies of brilliant people who are focused on the business in the way that law firms, even the best ones, just aren’t,’”
  • ‘Specific expertise is crucial. Don’t bury clients in a blizzard of press releases about one-off hires in various offices—instead, explain why your lawyers are best-suited to handle a particular matter or issue.”
  • “Bone up on your client’s industry, and make sure your partners do too, so you can advise them on what hurdles are lurking around the corner. If you can tell a chief executive how spending $500,000 now will save them from making a $2 million mistake later, ‘that’s value,’”
  • “Watch out for the Wall Street law firms, which in recent years have ‘really raised their game.’ Instead of just kicking back and counting their millions, elite firms are increasingly offering valuable expert insight—’for no charge’—and also putting in shoe leather work.”
  • “Anticipate needs [clients] may not know they have yet.”

Identify how you can uniquely assist each prospective client before contacting them

I believe Mr. Jordan’s advice should be read carefully by every lawyer in the world who would seek to serve as outside legal counsel to not only large corporations, but also international NGO’s, governments, trade associations, investment groups, startups, and others.  Based on his advice, it’s clear that those law firms who seek to know their potential clients needs and anticipate those needs — then go about creating highly sophisticated, actionable information that address those needs – will be best placed to win new business from those clients.

(I’ve previous detailed how lawyers can find opportunities that are likely to be of interest to prospective clients)

I agree with Julie Fleming that “Offering something eye-catching in an RFP is good, but bringing the nugget to a current client is even better”. Therefore, law firms should be continuously developing highly-tailored, unique information designed for individual prospective clients based on their business profile, business needs, current economic conditions and other factors impacting them – and how by working with your law firm – they can achieve their objectives. Doing this, then seeking to provide in-person (or remote) briefings to clients on the basis of how you can help – will see your firm regularly speaking to clients outside the tender process – and consequently, far ahead of your competitors in the race to secure the attention of clients.

I’ve been doing the type of outreach to clients that I describe above — for years — on behalf of my law firm clients. If you’d like to discuss how I might help you develop unique messages to take to your ideal prospective clients and win more work as a result, please contact me by using the form below, and we can arrange for a time to discuss your unique needs and how I can help.

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