An article by Jennifer Smith (@SmithJenBK) 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 now general counsel of PNC Financial Services Group Inc – on how to secure the attention of clients. Jordan’s advice includes:
- “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…
- Anticipate needs [clients] may not know they have yet…
- Quick, timely updates on regulatory shifts…are useful…Reams of glossy marketing material, not so much.”
With Jordan’s advice in mind, it’s important for lawyers to carefully consider what business clients truly want from their lawyers. They expect superb legal services. But what they want in addition to superb legal services – is a lawyer that also understands their business and can provide strategic counsel. Lawyers, therefore, should carefully consider how they prepare for meetings with new prospective clients. Here’s 5 ways to prepare for meetings with prospective clients that will ensure they know you provide the critical value-add they seek:
- Study prospective client company – Prepare a comprehensive backgrounder on your client and his or her business. What industry sector do they operate in? What trends are impacting that sector in your jurisdiction where you might provide help? What is their corporate financial picture? Healthy company? Heavily regulated industry? etc… Why are these questions important? They provide you with a road-map of where you can provide value-add strategic counsel.
- Identify commercial opportunities in your market — Perhaps the most valuable information your prospective client can receive from you in any meeting is counsel on what opportunities might exist for them in your market. Are there any unique acquisition opportunities you are aware of? Are there any tax or regulatory concessions being provided by national or local governments to foreign companies seeking to do business in your jurisdiction? There are hundreds of potential examples here.
- Identify commercial dangers in your market – As much as opportunities are helpful to potential clients – so are a knowledge of dangers. In fact, clients may even be more appreciative of your outline of dangers than opportunities. When clients are considering entering or expanding in your market – knowing of litigation risk, HR legal risk, regulatory and political risk – is extraordinarily valuable to them. Again, the list is endless.
- Seek to identify where your practice areas can help client commercial objectives— When meeting with a prospective client – provide an overview of opportunity and risk in your market specific to the client. Explain how your services can help the client ameliorate those risks and capitalize upon those opportunities — with your help.
- Prepare a one-pager on you and your firm for the client — Clients will appreciate brevity in this area – as well as a one-pager that is presented in such a fashion as to make it clear your firm is aware of the potential clients commercial posture and possible goals and concerns in your jurisdiction. A one-pager organized around these themes will uniquely distinguish your firm among competitors in the client’s mind.