Cold Calls and Silver Bullets

An article that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, “Coming in out of the Cold: In-house Counsel Say Cold-Calling Is Not Always Best Sell for Firms,” had me re-reflecting on a professional services marketing truism: No marketing strategy is a “silver bullet.” Rather, most marketing strategies can be successful if they’re implemented well.

The article was a summary of a session at the Legal Marketing Technology Conference where a panel of general counsel discussed what is the best way for lawyers to approach them about getting work. Many lawyers “cold-call”—or, more accurately, send “cold letters”—to general counsel at companies whom they know are being sued. The letters typically introduce the attorney or firm and offer their services, touting their experience in the practice area in which the company is facing legal action. The question the general counsel were talking about was: Does that work?

One panel member said it doesn’t—or at least, he had never called a lawyer who sent him a cold letter. Other general counsel, however, said they had called cold-letter-senders—when the letters were executed well. For example, one general counsel said she had replied to cold letters that proposed alternative fee structures. Another said the letters that caught her attention included a thoughtful proposal about the particular litigation the company was facing.

Pitching a custom-made, if brief, legal strategy requires more effort than just sending a form letter. But reading these general counsel’s comments, it seems that’s what it takes.

The question isn’t, “Do cold letters work?”, it’s, “What kind of cold letters work?”

It’s not, “Is this a silver bullet?”, it’s, “How do I shoot this?”

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