Sydney-based legal business development professional Richard Smith (RWS_01) shared an article on Twitter recently entitled: Special Report: Law firm networks — Catching the white whales by Natasha Bernal (@TheLawyerTasha) of The Lawyer.
The article highlights the efforts by international law firm networks, many of whom have member firms that are boutiques, to attract general counsels of major corporations doing business internationally. International law firm networks can and should be a means by which to attract more business for firms of any size. And those networks may wish to consider a series of 5 key strategies which I’ll outline below — to maximize their abilities to generate this work.
The essence of these strategies is well-designed, pro-active business development initiatives staffed internally by highly capable international legal business development professionals – or spearheaded by practicing lawyers prepared to devote considerable time to the generation of new business versus the practice of law.
Track global macroeconomic trends – Global trade is increasing year-on-year. Indeed, global foreign direct investment (FDI) increased 11% in 2013. It is this trade in goods and services which provides law firm networks with a unique and growing opportunity to be a on-stop-shop for clients seeking legal representation in one or numerous international markets. The very foundation of the effort involves ensuring your global network’s business development initiatives places the needs and commercial objectives of clients at the forefront of any effort. Clients expect lawyers to be both capable practitioners and efficient in the delivery of services. However lawyers can also uniquely distinguish themselves by being a proactive and informed commercial advisor to clients beyond the strict practice of law. The most important element in this effort is identifying commercial trends and opportunities in the myriad of jurisdictions your law firm network member firms are operating in – so as to seek to serve a client in legal needs associated with achieving commercial objectives in those jurisdictions. This on-the-ground and network-wide, active intelligence work by a law firm network business development operation will first seek to identify cross-border trade and investment trends so as to plan for more well-informed, detailed research to follow.
Track sector and market-specific economic trends – After identifying macro-economic trend-lines in international markets – international law networks can then dig-deeper by identifying sector and market-specific trends within this activity. By identifying sector and market-specific trends, the shape of business development activity ahead begins to take shape into more manageable and actionable commercial intelligence.
Match trends as against ideal potential corporate clients – This lays the road-map down for specific client or prospective client focused action. Once trends are broken down by markets and sectors – law firm networks can then take from this data actionable commercial opportunities (or dangers) uniquely relevant to highly specific potential clients and applicable to individual or numerous law firm network firms and practice groups within those firms. Importantly, this effort requires an understanding of which trends to look for and why, which practitioners or practice group leaders within the network are relevant to the trends — and which potential clients and existing clients might be identified as uniquely benefiting from these opportunities. This practice can and should also be inverted. In other words – take a specific client or ideal potential client and research specific commercial opportunities or dangers which might be of interest to them in specific or numerous jurisdictions – with an aim to presenting these opportunities to the client or prospective client. Again, this effort requires an informed understanding of the intersection of macro and micro-economic trends, industry sector economic triggers of opportunity and danger – and how each of these intersects with the practice of law among practitioners within the network.
Produce unique, company-specific actionable commercial opportunity/danger reports for the GC and commercial staff of companies – As I mentioned above – tracking economic and other data ought then to be transformed into reports and utilized to secure discussions with existing and potential clients as a means to discuss how the law firm network or member firms within the network might act for the client or prospective client in relation to the opportunities or dangers identified. This is an active, ongoing initiative that can and should always be improved upon and made as client-centric as possible. Seek always to be an indispensable commercial asset to your client or prospective clients.
Establish an internal, global business development initiative to include all network firms – Tying all of the above together requires firms to establish practitioner-specific, practice group-specific, firm-specific and network-wide business development initiatives. The aim of these initiatives is to ensure the network has a global, regional and local, well-informed and proactive business development effort (coordinated within the entire network) in place to effectively and efficiently achieve the consummation of numerous new client relationships.
Importantly, much more than I have outlined above can and should be done. But the guidance I’ve provided herein will permit an international law firm network the ability to attract and retain new business on an ongoing basis – far beyond that which it would have achieved without the adoption of this effort.