As cross-border global economic activity continues to increase – lawyers will almost certainly be likely to increase their foreign client development trips aimed at meeting with new prospective clients in foreign markets. There is much that must be done before one embarks upon a foreign business development trip – and this post does not address issues of prospective client identification and contacting. However, it’s worth a brief mention that this post presumes that before a trip is being made – ideal prospective clients and referral sources have been identified, contacted, pre-qualified, meetings secured and representation, remuneration or a solid referral relationship with another law firm – is already on a multi-day agenda consisting of these meetings.

I base this post on having organized hundreds of foreign business development trips for lawyers — from identifying and contacting ideal prospective clients and referral sources – to writing custom proposals – to making sure every last detail of a trip and a legal teams’ needs are met when traveling overseas. It’s hard work – and few if any mistakes can be made when so much is at stake.

With these meetings in-hand and the trip planned – here are 5 tips to help ensure that when on-the-ground in a foreign city – your trip will go as smoothly as possible. There are many more tips I could share – and I may do so in follow-up posts:

1. Arrange for local, flat-rate transportation before you leave – One of the most important things you need to do when on an overseas foreign business development trip – is make meetings on time, properly rested. This can be a challenge if one isn’t prepared. So make sure to have an on-the-ground driver or guide who will make sure you will be on-time to meetings and be able to rest and relax between meetings

2. Leave plenty of time between meetings – Make sure you know the traffic patterns and geographic grid of the city you’ll be visiting – as well as alternative sources of transportation should any difficulty arise. In a major financial capital – I’d leave at least a full hour and a half between meetings – even if meetings are close – as you’ll want some time to digest the prior meeting, update notes, create a to-do list, grab a bite to eat, use the bathroom – or maybe relax and take a walk – or make some calls. Lots might need to be done between getting to-and-from meetings.

3. Arrange for local admin support – Particularly if you’ll be many time zones away from home – It’s important to remember you’ll likely be many or at least a few time zones away from your home office – and equally as certain – many of the administrative needs you might have at home – you’ll have those same needs overseas – and maybe more. That’s why depending on someone locally is imperative – to ensure you can get any potential administrative work done, on-sight – in whatever language, currency or time-zone you may need to be working in.

4. Be prepared for meetings, but not over-prepared – One of the most-striking things you’ll find about meeting with particularly prospective clients – is how many additional issues or needs they’ll want to discuss. Hence, focusing preparatory research on only issues you raised to secure a meeting – is not a wise use of time. Basic backgrounders on a prospective client and biographical information on corporate executives is sufficient. Beyond that, what’s most important – is how to conduct the meeting. Focus on the clients needs. Make sure you know their overall strategic goals for your market, and how your services can help them achieve those goals. Make sure during the meeting next steps are clear and mutually understood and agreed upon. And that representation and remuneration are the goal with any prospective client.

5. Take notes – Accurate note-taking is vital. Oftentimes these notes will serve as the basis for follow-up and in many cases – a custom written proposal. Make sure to take notes so as to make them optimal for follow-up and proposal writing after each trip. Make copies of all notes and store them digitally and in the cloud – for use by everyone on the team in the future.

These are just 5 of many tips one can use when putting together a foreign law firm business development trip. I’ve learned much about what to-do and what not to-do when I learned how to put these trips together. I’ve now been creating these agendas for lawyers for more than a decade – and I still seem to learn one new lesson from each trip. I hope they’re helpful for you, too. 

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal. An independent writer & editor, he's the author of: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets (Ark Group 2014).

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