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Walter Mack is a name partner at New York, New York’s Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack , where he has handled criminal defense work ...
Plenty of successful attorneys drool over clients otherwise engaged with competitors. But that doesn’t have to be you. If you have your eye on a prospect who is using a competing firm for legal services, never fear—there are (ethical) ways to bring that client to your practice.
1. Woo the relationship-holding attorney instead of the client.
While it may come across as shady to invite a would-be client for dinner, you can instead pursue the relationship attorney…that is, if you’re sure that the client would follow the attorney to your firm. Flaunt the perks of working at your firm; carve out a special position for the attorney if necessary and entice the attorney to join your firm as a lateral hire. It’s a win-win for everyone.
2. Target a project instead of the whole account.
Change is hard, and the thought of switching law firms is probably a bit daunting for the client, even if the service said client is receiving isn’t the best. Instead of overwhelming the prospect with grandiose ideas about moving all their work to your firm, instead get a foot in the door with a single piece of work—and be sure to do an excellent job. Find small ways to demonstrate your expertise and client service, so that the thought of switching entirely eventually won’t seem so scary.
3. Keep yourself top of mind.
Remember: relationships aren’t always forever, and at some point, your prospect may want to end their current engagement. How can you differentiate yourself now, so that you remain top of mind should the prospect start looking elsewhere? Can you speak at a conference the prospect attends? Could you author an article that speaks to their pain points, and share the information with them in a non-threatening way?
4. View the situation as a healthy opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Take note of your prospect’s current firm: where does this firm fall short? What areas might this prospect feel could use more attention? Where does your firm excel, and what can you offer that the prospect isn’t getting in the current engagement? When you interact with the prospect you’re hoping to recruit, highlight what makes your firm stand out from the competition (without speaking negatively about their current firm).
There are some less savory techniques that may be tempting, but make no mistake: these tactics will do you more harm than good. Save yourself some trouble by avoiding these less-than-professional moves:
1. Negative marketing.
It’s never a good idea to speak poorly of other firms. The legal community is small; what goes around comes around, and speaking badly about fellow legal professionals will only come back to bite you in the long run.
2. Being abrasive or obnoxious when trying to recruit the potential client.
This one should go without saying, but here it is: don’t stalk your prospect. Respect them and their time, and don’t overwhelm them with constant requests for coffee, or emails about why your firm is the answer to all of their problems. Give respect, get respect.
3. Don’t undersell yourself.
Many attorneys make the mistake of getting into fee battles with their competition. But slashing fees repeatedly only makes your firm look cheap and your services seem subpar. It’s okay to offer a discount, but know your worth and avoid slashing costs as a sales tactic. When you do get this client on board, you’ll want them to view your firm as professional and worth the investment.
Justice is blind.You don't have to be.
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