Blog/Podcast: 4 Ways to Get on In-House Counsel’s Radar
Corporate business is the holy grail for many lawyers in private practice, but getting the attention of in-house counsel can seem as difficult as finding the actual holy grail. However, according to Invenergy LLC Deputy General Counsel, Tyrone Thomas, it’s not impossible with the right marketing and networking strategies. He joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to discuss four ways you can get on in-house counsel’s radar.
- Nurture Personal Relationships & Demonstrate Your Expertise
First and foremost, personal connections and one-on-one marketing are the best ways to secure corporate business. Firms should always encourage associates to build personal relationships that will mature into business relationships. When in-house counsel need outside assistance, they almost always look to the people they know first.
However, it can’t all be based on personal relationships, simply because it’s impossible for corporate counsel to know everyone, everywhere. Tyrone often has hyper-local work that requires knowledge of a specific county or city, and in these situations, he looks to colleagues for referrals. He also checks in with the firms he’s worked with before to see if they have expertise in the practice area and geographic location he needs.
Regardless of how a firm name gets on Tyrone’s desk, he always does due diligence. If a firm says it’s done work in a particular area of law, it has to have proof to back it
up—industry white papers on its website, lawyers who have spoken on relevant panels and articles published in trade publications, to name a few examples. Demonstrated industry knowledge makes a firm stand out from the rest
- Prioritize Thought Leadership Activities
Earning corporate business takes strategy, but like all success, it takes a little bit of luck, too. It’s easy to prioritize day-to-day work over speaking on a panel or attending a conference, but you never know what you could get out of these experiences. It could be the difference between securing corporate business or never getting an initial meeting.
As an example, Tyrone recently sat on a panel about diversity in law with a lawyer from a firm in South Carolina. Afterwards, he looked through his notes and realized that he needed a local firm for a South Carolina deal. Since Tyrone already knew this attorney valued diversity and had good things to say, all it took was a quick phone call to determine that the firm had the appropriate capabilities, and the deal was done. Had this attorney never participated on the panel, his firm may have never gotten the business, and Tyrone would have had to spend more time searching for the right firm.
- Commit to Diversity & Inclusion
Often, the differentiating factor between two firms seeking corporate business comes down to culture and values. A commitment to diversity and inclusion not only helps firms stand out from competitors, but it also fuels innovation. A firm made up of the same type of people lacks the ability to approach problems based on a diversity of experience, therefore getting a much smaller set of potential outcomes. In any collaborative practice, diversity of thought is going to be better than a monolithic one.
Even still, hiring people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences isn’t enough. Diversity in and of itself can lead to tokenism, where certain people are hired for their diversity but there is no real effort to fold them into the fabric of the organization. Firms should aim to hire people of different races and ethnicities, genders, economic positions and educational backgrounds and include them in core teams and leadership. A wide variety of perspectives at all levels of the firm is good for everyone.
- Get Listed in Quality Legal Directories
When corporate counsel can’t find a firm through personal connections, the last stop is often legal directories. There’s a perception that in-house counsel never use them, but that’s not necessarily true—at least not when we’re talking about quality directories such as Chambers & Partners. Chambers does in-depth research and makes an effort to cull the herd, and general counsel know that. If you want to be listed in a directory in the hopes of earning corporate business, make sure you’re working with those that are trusted by in-house counsel.
In one instance, Tyrone recently used Chambers to find a firm to assist with work in Alabama, where he didn’t have any existing connections. He searched Chambers and came up with a short list, then did his own research to check that the firms were capable of doing the work they were tagged to do. Finally, Tyrone flagged the firms that were members of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organization dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, an important distinction that signified those firms shared Tyrone’s corporate social responsibility priorities. Without Chambers, Tyrone may have never found the firm he ultimately selected.