For business-focused lawyers, the process of winning new business can be made easier if tried-and-tested best practices are adopted and utilized.  As a follow-up to my post entitled: Lawyers: 5 places to find new foreign clients, I’ve compiled  below a list of 5 things business-focused lawyers truly must do when meeting with prospective clients:

  1. Listen first, speak second — When business-focused lawyers meet with new prospective clients – the most important thing they should do is listen.  Corporate clients are seeking lawyers who are not just excellent legal practitioners – but perhaps more importantly, strategic business advisors.  When meeting to discuss representation and remuneration, clients will often have more than one issue or goal they may need your assistance with.  It’s important to listen first to help potential clients fully outline their needs and goals before you seek to discuss how you might be in a position to help.  Don’t focus much on your biography but instead more on solutions for your prospective client’s needs.
  2. Take notes for multiple uses later – This may sound like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important to remind lawyers of the multiple uses for these notes after a meeting.  Remembering what happened in the meeting.  That’s a given.  But also:  The notes are imperative also as they will serve as the basis for a custom proposal (thereby making the client acquisition process easier).  Also and importantly, take notes because you want to remember what business objectives the client has – so you can follow-up regularly whether they become your client now or not – where you can help the prospective client achieve those commercial objectives with your services.
  3. Seek first to be a conduit to commercial opportunity – The most important thing lawyers can do when seeking to serve the needs of business clients is to be a conduit to commercial opportunity for those clients.  Clients will expect your legal services to be superb.  What distinguishes lawyers and law firms in the business development process is your comprehension of client commercial objectives and your ability to be the most sophisticated counsel to clients in this area.  For international lawyers, being a comprehensive advisor to foreign clients seeking to expand in or enter your market is the single most important thing I can advise any lawyer to become.
  4. Price your services to the market – You are likely to be familiar with the trend in law toward flat-fee pricing of legal services.  Yes, this is an important trend you should be paying close attention to.  But what business clients are most interested in – is fair and reasonable pricing of services, whether those prices are flat-fee or hourly.  What’s more important is pricing your services to the market.  And in this context it’s vital to understand that clients will pay value-based prices for lawyers who are clearly not just lawyers but comprehensive, trusted business advisors.
  5. Ask for the work – It is vital as a part of the process where you’ve taken the time to identify and meet with a prospective client – to not hesitate to ask to be engaged by that client.  Lawyers can often be reticent to ask to be retained.  However, if they are confident they are providing the client with assistance which will help that client achieve vital commercial objectives, that reticence will recede and confidence about asking for the business will ensue.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He specializes in providing writing, editing, research and strategy services to the corporate and professional services sectors. Between 2002 and 2008, he established and directed the European representative business development office of US AmLaw 100 law and public policy firm Patton Boggs LLP. At the inception of his career, he served as a writer to the President of the United States in the White House. A licensed American lawyer, he holds a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law.

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