As background, the Legal Marketing Association recently held its well-attended annual meeting in New Orleans. The attendees were experienced business development professionals representing law firms of all sizes from across the United States. In keeping with past practice, the local Baltimore chapter shared key findings afterward, since only a handful of its members were able to attend the conference.
Gina Eliadis, content manager of Baker Donelson, attended a panel discussion on some specifics of what in-house counsel look for in their outside firms. The general counsel (GC) represented on the panel were from Walmart, Burford Capital, Epiq, Amazon, and University of Hartford. Gina’s highlights indicated that GC do read law firm client alerts as long as they are timely and to the point. They are less inclined to read blogs. The GC noted they want “snackable” content that is impactful, and prefer written content over podcasts or video.
Not surprisingly, they are only interested in being on your mail or email list if they know you or your firm. GC do use LinkedIn as a newsfeed tool to view your content and importantly, your firm’s recent representations and litigation matters. On a somewhat related subject, and good to know, Gina adds, “Data privacy/security is what keeps them up at night.”
What additional factors drive GC to outside selection decisions? ABA publications typically report that decisions are based on practice and geographic expertise rather than just price. FindLaw’s “Strategist” blog indicates that firms need to be open to fee arrangements whether fixed, hybrid or contingency-based. This should be part of your initial discussions: GC hate surprises and higher-than-anticipated fees without interim communications during an engagement are harmful to building enduring client relationships. A good business development skill is to research competitor fees/ pricing and then discuss how your added value to the project.
What do you bring to the table?
Attorneys need to continue their efforts to make their skills, experiences and interests easily known by other attorneys and referral sources. A part of this effort is making connections with GC through diverse networking and communications forums. Highlight the whole firm but be aware that GC are looking for specific expertise and may not care that you have the depth of 12 practice groups that are not relevant to their needs. This balance of focus is an important strategic direction for lawyers.
Additionally, all marketing content should reveal a problem-solving skill set – what do you bring to the table for your clients? Are you an effective thought leader in your field? It may be valuable to have an independent set of marketing eyes periodically review your content approaches.
Once you successfully achieve the opportunity to make a presentation or pitch to a major corporation’s GC to assist with outside legal work, there are several current thoughts on how to do so. Do not use PowerPoint. Instead, provide a meaningful and streamlined talk that adds your perspective to the matter. Handouts are fine along with firm materials, but be sure to get to the point and mirror your skills with the corporation’s perceived need.
As discussed in another LMA conference section by Chief Marketing Officer Jim Durham of Clark Hill, “General Counsel make both emotional and intellectual decisions on who they choose to use for important outside work.” Since GC seek both expertise and comfort, spend preparation and presentation time well so they know you will satisfy those attributes.
Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing & Communications and can be reached at [email protected]