To land a company client, do your research in and out of the courtroom

Ellen M. Keiley and Nicholas H. Ypsilantis,
The Daily Record Newswire

Consider this scenario: You get the meeting you have always wanted with the company’s general counsel, to formally pitch for business or to attend a special event with her for the first time.

What should you do next? Research!

The legal profession is rich in talent, tradition and competition. Research is one way to set yourself apart from others and put you ahead of the game. This is as true in a business development situation as it is in preparing for a case.
Research can be done through Google and other search engines, of course. More in-depth information, such as litigation history, can be obtained through formal research services. Things you should look for include:

• General company information

Know what the company’s history, mission and culture is. Look at the company’s revenues, number of employees, corporate headquarters and office locations. You can use that information to tie in how you and your firm align with the potential client’s organization.

• In-house counsel, principals and executives

Review all the key players’ backgrounds. Find out where they went to school, where they grew up, the nonprofits and professional associations they are involved with, and if they have recently won awards. That knowledge can be
used as a conversation piece to break the ice during your meeting, particularly if you or one of your colleagues has a connection in any of those areas.

Also, check LinkedIn to see how you and the members of your firm are connected to the potential client.

• Law firms and attorneys

Reports are available showing which law firms and attorneys companies use. This information can give you helpful insight as to the legal fees the company may be willing to pay and the types of firms and attorneys they like to work with.

For the specific attorneys who work on their matters, look for trend factors, such as a potential law school preference. That can be useful knowledge when putting a pitch team together.

Of course, it’s always important to diversify a pitch team for a variety of reasons. You want the meeting to go as well as possible, and diversifying your team will help facilitate a better meeting. Consider factors such as gender, race, expertise and personality.

Look for trends with firm size and determine if the company uses small, mid-size or global firms. If the trend is not to work with a firm of your size, be prepared to talk about why the company should work with you and your firm. How do you differentiate from other firms? What are your value-adds?

• Litigation and deal history

Determine the company’s pain points. Does its litigation trend in a certain area? How can you be helpful? Perhaps a risk-management perspective can help sway the potential client into working with you; maybe the current counsel is not being proactive enough in that area.

• Media mentions

This is a good way to gain insight on the company’s history and future plans. What you learn in the company’s media mentions may also be a predictor of potential future legal work, which could present an opportunity to tout your expertise in that area. There could be a major lease or M&A deal you may be able to help with down the road.

Once engaged, you want to deliver superior service. Part of this service paradigm involves staying apprised of your client’s activities on an ongoing basis. A simple way to launch such an effort is to set up Google Alerts on the company and key client contacts.

It also is important to get face time with your clients. Take the time to meet with your clients in person to keep updated on what is going on in their business.

And it’s good practice to periodically run new research reports. Your client may not work with your law firm in every practice area and may use several firms. If you notice a spike in a certain area of litigation for which you are not providing legal services, that information could lead to an opportunity to pitch for that work. Perhaps you can reduce your client’s costs in that area by providing better rates and/or alternative fee arrangements, and by being proactive and minimizing risk.

Potential clients expect that you have taken the time and interest to learn about them. You want to be armed with as much information as possible before going into a meeting. Always do your research. It will give you a competitive advantage and increase your chances of success.

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Ellen M. Keiley is president of EMK Consulting Group, which offers business development coaching and consulting, public relations, and training for law firms and other professional services firms. She can be contacted at ellenkeiley@emkconsultinggroup.com. Nicholas H. Ypsilantis is president and CEO of AccuFile, a provider of integrated research and knowledge solutions for law firms, public and private enterprises, and colleges and universities. He can be contacted at nypsilantis@accufile.com.

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