May 21, 2014
In today’s legal market, General Counsel clients are looking for a partner to help them meet new corporate demands. They expect that any attorney seeking their business has the requisite skill; what they really want is an attorney who has that skill combined with an insight into their specific needs and a good grasp of their industry. In other words, clients want help from a legal professional who can think about the future and come up with a reasonable forecast for what kinds of actions may need to be taken in the future.
This is why Current Awareness is vital to practicing attorneys.
An attorney who is the responsive, capable partner his or her clients want must have easy access to up-to-date information and breaking news on the most important factors facing his or her client. Without those tools, it is next to impossible to be fully and thoroughly informed, and to be otherwise is a detriment to business. General Counsel clients are no longer willing to educate their attorneys about their needs, and they are not very accepting when a lawyer’s understanding of their business or industry is outmoded. Clients today expect their attorneys to come to the table already aware of and in touch with their needs.
Now, some attorneys have trouble becoming this sort of partner, not because they do not want to be the best legal counsel they can be, but because they are hesitant to engage in a business development strategy (like building Current Awareness) out of the fear that it will turn them into salespeople.
This is a concern I understand, but as a Business Development Specialist, I have seen lawyers and firms successfully embrace business development by making it a facet of their roles as trusted legal advisors.
The truth is, business development is a firm-wide operation. It certainly helps to have specialized professionals focusing in on it, but comprehensively tackling the needs of existing clients and aggressively and competently courting new ones is such a grand-scale effort that it needs cooperation across the firm.
I would also point out that fully immersing yourself in Current Awareness does not make you a salesperson. Rather, it makes you an educated, experienced attorney who is doing the most he or she can to be of real service to his or her clients, and that of course, is one of a lawyer’s highest callings.
Overall, having a full understanding of a client’s company and industry through access to Current Awareness tools is so important that we might someday wonder why we ever thought it was not a natural part of a lawyer’s service to his or her client.