A few months ago, I wrote about "The biggest mistake lawyers make when trying to develop new business": they fail to listen.
As I wrote in that post:
The familiar term "pitch meeting" shows just how pervasive this mistake is. Most lawyers seem to think that when they meet with prospective clients, their task is to pitch, to hurl, to throw out information. In fact, any successful sales person will tell you that instead of pitching, you should be catching, listening to what clients have to say.
I had a similar discussion last week with a senior litigator that I am coaching, when we discussed ways to increase new business with a client he'd helped before. LegalBizDev principal Kirk Forrest is working with me with this client, and took the analogy one step further when he talked about what to do after you listen.
Here's what Kirk wrote in a follow-up email:
1. To continue the baseball analogy, yes, it is more about "catching" than "pitching." But he [the lawyer being coached] gains the advantage by using that information "caught," to throw a series of "strikes" thereafter. It is the "strikes" thrown which will get him the business. Having the information but doing nothing with it will not produce results. 2. For example, at the recent Network of Trial Law Firms seminar I attended, a GC on the panel reiterated my view that lawyers seeking work should show how they will be helpful. [The lawyer being coached] mentioned that there was a second case filed [with his client]; he wrote the company and merely said, "Let me know if I can help on this." Polite, yes, but it did not give the GC any stated reason to hire him. A better approach to the GC could have been something like this:
I have given some preliminary thought to the new suit filed against the company. As we did with the last case, we would recommend removing the case to federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Depending upon the federal judge we get, would could advise the Court that the case is related to others already pending within the District and ask the Court to transfer the case to Judge Jones' docket. You will recall that we received some favorable discovery rulings from Judge Jones in the XXX matter which were very helpful in getting us to an early and cost effective settlement. Assuming that you want to go this route, after filing an Answer we would seek an early Rule 16 Status Conference to discuss with the Court limiting discovery for now and having the parties focus on the few key issues raised in the Complaint. As we did previously, we would expect our pleadings to be closely watched by the press, and we can offensively use the pleadings to get our side of the story out.
Presumably, we would use many, if not all, of the same witnesses as before. We spent much time working with John Doe in preparing for his deposition and we could pick it up again from there. Mary Public was a little more difficult but we finally got her focused on why her testimony was critical. We built up a good rapport and credibility with her, which will likely be very helpful. Tim Smith and Jane Miller, who worked with me on the last case, are available to again provide an experienced team in defending this matter. I will call you tomorrow morning to discuss; however, if you would like to talk sooner, just let me know and I will clear some time on my calendar for us to talk.
3. The key point is to provide the decision maker with helpful information. Investing some time to study and analyze the complaint is time well spent. At the conference, GCs agreed that even if the lawyer was not hired for this particular matter, all would remember a lawyer who took the time to add value to his communication and who was helpful to the GCs making the key decision of who to hire. 4. So, yes, catch first. But then do not waste pitches; throw only strikes.
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