A recent article by Jennifer Smith (@SmithJenBK) in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog outlines advice for law firms from Gregory B. Jordan, former global managing partner of Reed Smith LLP and now general counsel of PNC Financial Services Group Inc – on how best to go about attracting the attention of the General Counsel. Here are some excerpts from Mr Jordan’s advice:
- “Quick, timely updates on regulatory shifts…are useful…Reams of glossy marketing material, not so much.”
- “Accounting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers are “eating law firms’ lunch” when it comes to briefing clients on upcoming challenges—including regulatory and legal shifts. “They have armies of brilliant people who are focused on the business in the way that law firms, even the best ones, just aren’t,'”
- ‘Specific expertise is crucial. Don’t bury clients in a blizzard of press releases about one-off hires in various offices—instead, explain why your lawyers are best-suited to handle a particular matter or issue.”
- “Bone up on your client’s industry, and make sure your partners do too, so you can advise them on what hurdles are lurking around the corner. If you can tell a chief executive how spending $500,000 now will save them from making a $2 million mistake later, ‘that’s value,'”
- “Watch out for the Wall Street law firms, which in recent years have ‘really raised their game.’ Instead of just kicking back and counting their millions, elite firms are increasingly offering valuable expert insight—’for no charge’—and also putting in shoe leather work.”
- “Anticipate needs [clients] may not know they have yet.”
Why sophisticated content will win the attention of the General Counsel
Mr. Jordan’s advice should be read carefully by every lawyer in the world who would seek to serve as outside legal counsel to not only large corporations, but international NGO’s, governmental entities, private equity groups and others. Based on Mr Jordan’s advice, it’s clear that those law firms who seek to know their potential clients needs and anticipate those needs — then go about creating highly sophisticated, actionable intelligence of high value (eg sophisticated content) to address those needs – will be best placed to win new business from the GC.
A case in point: The World Bank and the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets
Today I had the opportunity to brief, by invitation, the World Bank Asia-Pacific General Counsel’s office – on the myriad trends shaping the Asia-Pacific legal services market. Those trends include anything from the changing role of the general counsel in hyper-competitive local legal markets — to patterns in regional foreign direct investment. These insights are based on a recent book I authored on the region’s legal markets entitled A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. Once invited, I worked closely with the GC’s office to custom-tailor my presentation to their needs – and answered many questions on those topics during that presentation. My ability to identify what issues may be of importance to the GC then custom-tailor a presentation around those issues was based on my years of experience conducting or participating in these sorts of meetings on behalf of my law firm clients.
While this book required 6 months of work and 90,000 words to complete – it doesn’t require a book of this length, or a book at all – for law firms today to produce sophisticated content the general counsel’s office deems useful enough to warrant an invitation to present the findings. However, law firms should understand that sophisticated content means well researched to semi-scholarly or scholarly standards, of adequate length and focused on topics of high relevance to their audience.
Can blogposts be sufficient? Yes in some cases they can be. However, specialized briefs on narrowly focused topics of exclusive interest to and use by a specific individual or select group of general counsels – may go even further in helping your firm build strong ties with clients.
Use sophisticated content to your advantage in a crowded legal market
In seeking to secure the attention of the general counsel among a sea of competitors – it would be wise to heed the advice of Mr Jordan and develop a strategy of providing industry-leading, well-researched and produced information to clients and prospective clients on a regular basis. It appears clear that the creation of sophisticated content with high relevance to the general counsel – may stand not only a good chance of winning their attention, but an invitation to present those findings in person as well.
John Grimley helps law firms create sophisticated content strategies focused on meeting the needs of clients and prospective clients. To enquire about his services, contact him at +1.213.814.2855 or at email@example.com or on Skype at: JohnGrimley