Wooing Law Firm Clients is Like Dating, General Counsels Say

Ask the right questions, polish your profile and hope they’ll swipe right. Starting and growing law firm/client relationships is a lot like dating, said the panelists at this year’s Legal Marketing Association General Counsel Forum in New York. 

Daniel Bildner of The Carton Group, Leslie Regenbaum of K2Intelligence and Jack Shea of Express Scripts Inc., agreed that showing an interest in a company’s business, investing time to learn its goals and making personal connections help law firms win and expand engagements.

Other key takeaways from the October 19 event:

Small inroads count

Be willing to take a phone call and give quick, practical advice, even if your firm hasn’t been engaged for a particular matter. Helping on an ad hoc basis signals your interest in the client and may lead to a broader relationship, either with that company, or when your contact gets a new job or recommends you to a colleague. 

Build your bench

GCs want lawyers at all levels of your firm to know their business—not just senior partners. Bringing an associate to a meeting or a deposition (sometimes at the firm’s expense) shows you’re serious about creating a deep bench of lawyers familiar with the client’s business.

You can have too much of a good thing

Law firms bombard in-house counsel with information—alerts, press releases, newsletters, articles and more. After a while, some overcommunicated GCs refuse to look at any of it, while others turn to content aggregators for curated news and thought leadership.

To cut through the clutter, send newsletters, alerts or articles from a specific lawyer, instead of from the firm. Have the lawyer include a personal note. Even something as basic as “Thought you might be interested in this,” greatly increases the chance your message will earn a click.  

Predictability beats price

While the panelists agreed the billable hour is here to stay, they also said flat fees and other alternative arrangements can be a key selling point. These arrangements require you to trust your partner and be willing to compromise when necessary. However, they’re worth it for the certainty and goodwill they provide.

The Bottom Line: Taking the time to show clients and prospects they matter can lead to more opportunities and more business. 

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