2 ways China’s lawyers can build a foreign client base

China’s lawyers gathered recently in Shanghai to learn about trends and best practices in legal technology and marketing.  The China International Lawyer Marketing & Technology Summit 2013 (CILMTS2013) takes place at a time when China’s economy continues to grow apace while maintaining a pronounced allure to foreign companies and investors.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????China’s law firms constitute Asia’s largest and arguably most competitive for local work – but competition for work from both domestic and foreign clients is becoming more fierce, characterized by intense price competition.

To remain competitive and increase the likelihood of future success, China’s lawyers can emulate some of the world’s best law firm business development initiatives – some focused on China already.  Two core initiatives are worth emulating:

1. Make yourself a gateway to the Chinese market

For Chinese lawyers seeking to represent clients from overseas – one of the most effective ways to attract those potential clients – is to become a primary source of information for companies seeking to enter and thrive in the Chinese market.  China Law Blog, authored by Dan Harris of Harris & Moure pllc, is a superb example of what you can aspire to.

2. Establish and maintain a “sales pipeline” business development initiative

To make the gateway presence I’ve described above fully successful, Chinese law firms should also establish a “sales pipeline”.  The key components of this effort are the identification of new potential clients and the pursuit of those clients until your firm has been retained by them.  This effort requires the adoption of sophisticated market research and sales performed by skilled professionals trained in each discipline I’ve mentioned above.

Looking forward

China’s lawyers can thrive in the increasingly competitive marketplace for legal services in mainland China – if they emulate the sophisticated practices some law firms are already utilizing to great success.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

2 places where US lawyers can look for foreign clients

While America remains on of the single largest recipients of foreign direct investment in the world, the increasing globalization of world economic activity has created a more complex menu of opportunities for US lawyers seeking new business in 2014.

In 2012 “global corporations invested more in emerging markets than the core economies of U.S., Europe and Japan, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) in their 2013 World Investment Report“, as Forbes Magazine recently reported.

dreamstime_s_31364930-2“Developing economies absorbed more foreign direct investment (FDI) than the developed ones, with four developing economies [China leading] ranked among the five largest recipients in the world.  Developing countries also generated almost one third of global FDI outflows, continuing the trend of cash rich corporations in foreign countries investing in the advanced economies.” the report continued.

Great Britain ranked as the number one recipient of foreign direct investment in the world in 2013, as Reuters reported.  While the US “remains No. 1 for foreign corporate investments.” according to Forbes.

Based on these new trends in global economic flows, below is a list of two core areas where US lawyers can focus in an effort to secure new foreign clients in the year ahead.

Inbound investment into the United States

According to a recent news release from The White House: “Investment flows into the United States come mostly from a small number of industrial countries.  Since 2010, Japan, Canada, Australia, Korea, and seven European countries collectively have accounted for more than 80 percent of new FDI.   Although still small, flows from emerging economies like China and Brazil are growing rapidly.

The U.S. manufacturing sector draws a considerable share of FDI dollars, led by pharmaceuticals and petroleum and coal products.  Outside manufacturing, wholesale trade; mining; non-bank holding companies; finance and insurance; and banking receive the greatest shares of foreign investment.”

US lawyers would be wise to match up their core practice specialties with inbound investment flow sources, identifying sector-specific opportunities for the conduits of those investments and centering a focused yet nimble business development effort around anticipating and helping to facilitate transactions and the follow-on work which results.

Foreign growth markets

Based on the increasing trend of foreign investment flowing from developed to developing economies and vice-versa, US lawyers would be wise to track US corporate investment flows while seeking to identify means by which to facilitate transactions on behalf of domestic investors at each point in the investment chain.  This would of course require ongoing assessments of whether to establish some form of foreign presence(s) or corresponding relationships as integral to the business development planning process.

In Asia, “China and Hong Kong were the second and third largest FDI recipients worldwide, and Singapore, India and Indonesia were also among the top 20.” as the Forbes report outlines.  China.org.cn provides a more in-depth analysis of regional trends in inbound foreign direct investment in a recent article entitled The “Asianization” of global FDI.

Africa had a “5% increase in FDI inflows to $50 billion. This growth was driven partly by FDI in extractive industries, but investment in consumer-oriented manufacturing and service industries is also expanding.”

Foreign FDI into South America increased 12%, “where FDI inflows were a mix of natural-resource-seeking and market-seeking activity, particularly from China.”


Growth opportunities exist for US lawyers seeking new business from cross-border investment flows in 2014.  However in order to capitalize upon these trends, sophisticated market research and business development practices must be adopted by US law firms to fully realize the potential opportunities the new year offers.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

Why and how to use market research to build your law practice

Wherever you turn today when reading about trends in the legal profession – you can’t avoid reading about challenges to law firm revenue and new legal services business models taking market share from traditional law firms.  Not long ago a blogpost by Australia’s George Beaton attracted some of the most well-known personalities in the legal business world to a debate about BigLaw versus NewLaw.  These are debates about real things like which law firms will be the new winners in the future legal profession.  All managing partners and individual legal practitioners ought to be paying attention to these debates as they have a direct and profound impact on you and your law firms future ability to stay in business profitably.

dreamstime_xs_21099130-2And arguably the prime reason why law firms are failing to generate the revenue they hope for – is a lack of adequate knowledge about everything required to achieve it.  Imprecise “networking” or undisciplined use of social media – are all well-intentioned yet more often than not – unproductive attempts at generating new business.

As US law firm CMO Eric Fletcher has outlined, effective legal marketing “require[s] direction and discipline.”

What really works?

The bottom line is:  Law is a business.  And lawyers in business – ought to treat the identification, pursuit and capture of new business – as if their livelihood depended on it – because it does.  That means serious study and learning about what works.  And a well informed business development and marketing effort begins with – market research.

What is market research and why is it important?

Legal clients are much less interested in the quality of the legal work they hope to secure (they demand it and will always do so).  No, what clients want is the value add.  And what’s the value add?  It’s the business-focused lawyer or law firm that perfects the ability to analyze the marketplace, identify commercial opportunities for clients and prospective clients – and takes those opportunities to clients with an aim to begin a discussion around how you the lawyer might help the client achieve their commercial objectives.

If there was a single thing I’d say lawyers and law firms need to pay much, much more attention to (if they’re doing it at all) – it’s market research.  Because market research is the tip of the spear when it comes to how best to identify, pursue and secure new clients.  Without well-informed, timely, effective, thorough and properly utilized market research – any legal marketing and business development effort will not succeed as well as it might.

Jettison the general and strive for informed specificity

What good market research is for law firms and individual lawyers can be summed up by saying it’s the identification of instant, actionable commercial or other objectives that should be of interest to clients or potential clients.  It takes time, patience, dedication, a willingness to be flexible and learn, hard but smart work – and most importantly, the commitment to undertake the task.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

2 initiatives to help US law firms compete in the Brussels lobbying market

As the New York Times reported last October, “American law firms…increasingly see the European Union’s vast apparatus as a vital lobbying opportunity for themselves and their multinational corporate clients.”

“As the European Union has emerged as a regulatory superpower affecting 28 countries that collectively form the world’s largest economy, its policies have become ever more important to corporations operating across borders. In turn, the influence business in Brussels has become ever larger and more competitive, rivaled only by Washington’s.” the report continues.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????But what is also made clear in the report, is just how competitive the Brussels lobbying market is.  “More than 5,700 corporations, lobbying firms, law firms and nonprofit groups have joined a registry of institutions that lobby the European Union government, of which about 2,000 have offices in Brussels.”  Many law firms have not joined the registry, however, as they are not currently required to do so.  “Akin Gump…closed its Brussels office several years ago, with the top executive at the time calling the outpost a “drain on resources.” the report continues.  While Covington & Burling & Baker Botts and others remain committed to the market.

How US law firms can compete

Over a decade ago I helped a British-based public affairs consultancy build a US corporate client base sufficient to open a Brussels office to represent the public procurement and public affairs needs of those clients.  I can say from experience that US law firms would be wise to focus their business development efforts around bringing commercial opportunities to prospective clients (e.g. the EU’s vast public procurement regime is the primary first offer a US law firm can bring to large and mid-market US companies, not to mention other potential clients around the world).  If you don’t maintain a public procurement practice as a component of your EU public affairs offer, I strongly encourage you to establish one, scaling it up as more clients come aboard.

Utilize two core initiatives

  • US firms ought to seriously consider establishing a highly refined blog focused on the EU’s public procurement regime, as a means to provide continuously updated information on specific issues of specific relevance to ideal potential clients.  This effort would uniquely distinguish any US law firm operating in Brussels.
  • Imperative to the blogging effort is to also employ an active, outbound business development initiative with an aim to securing discussions with those prospects armed with knowledge of what in the EU decision-making apparatus is of most commercial interest to them.

Importantly, many of your prospective clients in the US and elsewhere in the world will not be aware of the EU’s public procurement regime.  Leading with these two core initiatives and building a client base around public procurement will afford you the opportunity to request exclusivity on any EU work on behalf of new clients you may sign as a result of the effort I’ve outlined above.  Building a client base around flat or sliding-scale fixed retainers is also advisable as it will appeal to the commercial mindset of the often highly entrepreneurial C-Suite executives you’ll be seeking to secure as clients.

Looking forward

Despite intense competition for lobbying clients in Brussels, US law firms can succeed beyond any expectations their managing partners might have – should they put in place the sort of business development plan I know from experience works when seeking to attract and retain clients for a Brussels public affairs offer.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

Why California law firms should be focused on China’s investors

Chinese investors are increasingly targeting California real estate and other assets – and California law firms can and should be focused on this trend to win new business.

As Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor of Commercial Property Executive reported recently:  “The Los Angeles real estate investment community is abuzz with news of Oceanwide Real Estate Group’s pending acquisition of Fig Central, a 4.6-acre entitled development site located downtown, just across from Staples Center and the multi-billion-dollar L.A. Live entertainment destination.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Beijing, China-based company, acting through its Tohigh Construction Investment subsidiary, will purchase the shovel-ready property from The Moinian Group.  Law firm Allen Matkins served as legal counsel to Moinian on the transaction, while Nixon Peabody L.L.P. advised Oceanwide on the deal that marks the real estate company’s entrée into the U.S. Nixon Peabody, which will also serve as development counsel going forward, notes in a statement that Fig Central will be developed to include a five-star hotel, apartments and retail space.”

China investment expanding, California poised to win big

This single investment reflects a growing trend of China investment expanding, and the potential for California to capture a substantial percentage of that investment as we move toward 2020.

As the Asia Society outlined in a comprehensive recent report entitled: Chinese Direct Investment in California:  “California, with its long history with China, the most sizable Chinese American population in the country, and more inward investment deals from China than any other state, is in a position to lead the nation in attracting Chinese investment in the decade to come. The Golden State has the potential to attract between $10 billion and $60 billion of Chinese direct investment by 2020. Those flows would bolster employment, feed the tax base, generate exports, and bring positive spillovers of know-how and relationships. However, these benefits are not foreordained.” the report cautions, “maximizing California’s success as a host for Chinese investors must start with better coordination among interested stakeholders, including government, business, and civil society.” [emphasis added].

California law firms must make a concerted effort to win China investor business

As the Asia Society outlines, the numbers are staggering.  Chinese investment overseas is expanding exponentially.  California is uniquely positioned to win a substantial amount of that foreign direct investment.  But it cannot do so without focused effort.  Law firms in California can if they wish – act as the tip of the spear in securing Chinese investment into California – and therefore win significant new business around this single effort.  But in order to do so – firms must take a focused, sophisticated and long-term view of the opportunity.  And act accordingly.  The recent deal which sees Nixon Peabody acting for a Chinese real estate investor is just one example of what is possible for any California law firm willing to make the effort to win this work.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

Global FDI up 11% in 2013: There’s new legal work in those figures

Law firm leaders should be tracking rising foreign direct investment flows as there’s legal work in those figures.  According to a recent report in The BRICS Post: “BRIC [countries, Brazil Russia, India, China] now account for over one fifth of global FDI with China gaining the 2nd spot, Russia 3rd and Brazil 7th in the list of top 20 host economies of 2013.

dreamstime_xs_37530679-2Total inflow to BRICS reached $322 billion in 2013, up 21 per cent from 2012.  [Overall], global FDI increased by 11 per cent to an estimated $1.46 trillion in 2013.”

The BRICS Post also reported that: “UNCTAD forecasts that global FDI inflows will gradually rise to $1.6 trillion and $1.8 trillion in 2014 and 2015, respectively.”

What law firms can do

Despite an avalanche of reports of law firms facing profound challenges, these figures are good news – and not just for law firms located within or doing business between their home countries and BRIC nations.

In order to capitalize upon this growth, however, firms need to put in place a mechanism to track flows of foreign direct investment, the companies involved in or projected to be involved in the future – and match up relevant practice group leaders and subject matter experts with opportunities – to create a custom business development plan focused on generating legal work around this FDI.

Emulate entrepreneurs

US lawyers can take some inspiration from “Chinese business executive Pin Ni.”  “Two decades ago,” according to the Chicago Tribune, “he led China’s largest auto-parts-maker into the Chicago region, establishing a sprawling U.S. beachhead for the company and making a name for himself as a trailblazer in the process. Now he is again poised to be a front-runner in the realm of Chinese foreign investment, taking the American subsidiary he heads on a risky new journey, a sort of “Globalization, Phase Two.

After buying and revitalizing failing U.S. auto parts companies as Detroit was cratering, [Ni and his company], Elgin-based Wanxiang America Corp. [are] encouraging some of those operations to produce and sell goods in developing markets, including its corporate home base of China, as well as Brazil, India and Russia.”

Ni “is a prime example”, reports the Tribune, “of a new way of thinking in the Chicago area, in which business leaders must look far beyond the region and navigate the global economy’s shifting tides. His company’s new paradigm mirrors Chicago’s own need to think globally to remain competitive.”

Looking forward

Given the projections for global FDI growth, even an initiative that augments already existing business development initiatives focused on domestic legal work – would be advisable. Law firms can and should seek to not just help companies seeking to enter their own domestic market, but also emulate Pin Ni in helping take clients and prospective clients – into lucrative overseas markets.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley

Hong Kong law firms: 5 steps to more China energy clients

China has now become the world’s largest net importer of oil – having recently overtaken the United States in the role – according to Anthony Fensomwriting in The Diplomat.  Indeed, China’s energy needs are so great that available global sources of energy will be insufficient to support the countries projected future economic growth – as Dan Harris wrote in China Law Blog.  Conversely, there will be a 45 percent increase in oil and natural gas production in North America by 2040, according to a study by Exxon cited by Fensom in The Diplomat.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????While America is on a trajectory to energy independence with the option of becoming a major global energy exporter – China faces a future of higher energy needs and uncertainty about whether those needs can be met.  China is already actively securing sources of energy from markets around the world – however their needs and America’s supply will almost certainly markedly increase the amount of energy-related FDI work available in Hong Kong as US-China energy engagement increases over time.

A China-US confluence of interests, with Hong Kong in the middle

Hong Kong — a tiny archipelago of islands — is the transshipment point for two-thirds of foreign direct investment emanating from and en-route to China.  Indeed, Beijing has provided the once-British colony with its imprimatur for acting in such an intermediary capacity.

This has led to increasing competition among Hong Kong firms for business related to China investment flow.  The competition – and the stakes in terms of potential law firm revenues – is likely to heighten as China’s thirst for energy and America’s ability to supply it — increase.

How a Hong Kong law firm can become a pre-eminent China energy intermediary

With more and more law firms vying for the work associated with Chinese outbound and inbound FDI – a Hong Kong law firm that develops and implements the following initiatives could become the pre-eminent local law firm for work related to China energy trade flow:

  1. Establish a China Energy Law Blog, authored from Hong Kong around issues related to the domestic Chinese energy sector and any other legal issues related to cross-border movement of funds or resources related to China’s efforts to secure energy.
  2. A dedicated internal business development discipline whereby you are consistently identifying all potential sources of China energy-related work.  A process of actively engaging those potential clients with an aim to discussing commercial opportunities with them where your law firm may generate revenue as a result – is essential.   This research would involve both the use of information available in the public domain as well as proprietary databases.
  3. The identification of intermediaries for US energy sector clients such as law firms, investment banks, accounting firms, sectoral management consulting firms and others.  Once identified, begin the process of building relationships with these intermediaries with the aim of acting for their clients as it relates to any China energy market access they may wish to secure.  Vitally, these relationships must be proactive in nature and require coordination by internal business development professionals.
  4. A political monitoring discipline where your firm is identifying any domestic US or Chinese political developments which may have an impact on the scope of any potential changes to China’s increasing engagement with the US on energy.
  5. Finally, your internal business development team must sit alongside practitioners throughout the entire process to ensure all elements of these initiatives are carried out fully.  Leveraging a highly sophisticated and well-trained BD staff around these initiatives would maximize your firms ability to secure a strong position among your peers as the prime conduit for China energy-related FDI.

A road-map for success

Any Hong Kong law firm hoping to achieve pre-eminent status among those firms vying for China energy related work must ensure their internal business development staff is both capable of — and possesses the authority to — undertake all of the core initiatives I’ve listed above.  A Hong Kong law firm can become head-above-the-rest in the China energy trade game.  But in order to do so – you must effectively establish the mechanisms and deploy the relevant professionals necessary to achieve that goal.  While no simple task – given the stakes at hand – the disciplines I’ve outlined above ought to be in place and vigorously undertaken by any firm seeking a pre-eminent market position as Hong Kong’s leading China energy FDI intermediary.

46dcc894fe940c873fb966b046eda439_400x400John Grimley assists legal, financial services and public affairs professionals create and implement custom international business development plans. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at jg@jgrimley.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley