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 best to go about attracting the attention of the General Counsel.  Here are some excerpts from Mr Jordan’s advice:

  • “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.”

Why sophisticated content works

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 international NGO’s, governmental entities, private equity groups and others.  Based on Mr Jordan’s 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 intelligence of high value (i.e. sophisticated content) to address those needs – will be best placed to win new business from the GC.

Are blogposts sufficient?

Many law firms now utilize blogging as a means to attract the attention of clients.  But are blogposts sufficient?  Yes in some cases they are.  However, specialized briefs on narrowly focused topics of exclusive interest to and use by a specific individual or select group of general counsel (and hence, something which in some cases you won’t be publishing but rather sharing directly with a client or prospective client offline) – may go even further in helping your firm build strong ties with clients.  When producing content for clients, the wholly unique needs of each should be at the forefront when considering the length, depth and method by which the content is developed and delivered.   Therefore, blogposts, memorandums, white papers, even timely emails, can all be utilized as a means by which to provide as useful information as possible – to a current or prospective client.

Distinguish your firm in a crowded legal market

In seeking to secure the attention of the general counsel among a sea of competitors – it would be wise to heed the advice of Mr Jordan and develop a strategy of providing industry-leading, well-researched and produced information to clients and prospective clients on a regular basis.  It appears clear that the creation of sophisticated content with high relevance to the general counsel –  may stand not only a good chance of winning their attention, but also an invitation to present those findings in person as well.

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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