June 12, 2014
You need to know enough about both yourself and the buyer to determine how and to what extent – or if at all – you can actually serve the client’s need. “Knowing the client” is a marketing bromide and a fairly tired one at that. But we still find an overwhelming number of lawyers do little or any research prior to a first pitch. They do not understand the in-house dynamic – how in-house counsel actually think. How should you gain this critical information?
First, what are the buyer’s professional values? What is their perception of you, your firm , and your practice group?
- What kind of commitments does the buyer/client expect the seller/firm to make?
- What are the buyer’s expectations in terms of rate structure?
- What are the expectations about winning versus settling?
- What are the buyer’s needs arrayed across a broad spectrum of potential legal services?
Second, how many baskets are your eggs in? At the most practical level, you need to know the buyer’s internal situation. While recent and current clients are obviously the best source of new engagements, are your relationships numerous and broad enough to withstand the departure of a general counsel, associate general counsel, etc.? Can you survive a new CEO?
Third, why has a competitor bested you? What do they know about the client that you don’t? Here client knowledge allows you to spot openings based on how the buyer views a broad spectrum of law firms. Track the client’s outside hires – is there a pattern?
Simply talk to their in-house lawyers. Take them to lunch, ask them why they hired so-and-so and (diplomatically) is it working out so far? Be sure to pick up the tab!