Getting The Work: Tips for Law Firms From In-House Counsel

In the last few blogs, I shared insights on working with in-house counsel based on advice provided by a panel of in-house counsel at a Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Association meeting. The last blog covered the panel’s tips for getting your foot in the door with in-house counsel. And now that you have their attention, how do you get the work? Here’s what the panel had to say.

  • Be willing to accept smaller matters to start, even loss leader projects. Do superior work and bigger assignments will follow.
  • The first case you handle has to be in your sweet spot, so be realistic about what you’re selling. If you’re experienced in patent prosecution, don’t sell litigation. If your experience is limited to working with electrical engineering companies, don’t push chemical engineering work. In-house counsel won’t be happy if their internal clients report to them that you struggled with their engineering jargon in a deposition.
  • Do what’s best for the client. Let’s say a current in-house counsel client asks if your firm can handle a real estate matter; however, your firm’s expertise is employment law, but you’ve just hired a senior associate who has some real estate experience,–be honest about it. If they need a real estate expert, tell them you’re just breaking into that field, but may not have the in-depth expertise they require. Refer them to another firm that has the necessary experience.
  • Keep your retainer agreement simple. An overly complex one can be a barrier.
  • Demonstrate that you’re cost-conscious by offering a discount, special fee arrangement, fee cap or volume discount. Be creative in your cost approach. For example, consider referring some of the documentation review work to a firm in a less expensive geographic location. Keep litigation costs down. A competitive fee structure may not get you the business, but not having it can lose you the business.
  • Don’t commit to participating in a beauty contest unless you can “knock it out of the park.” If it’s worth your time, do it right. You don’t want to be remembered for your half-baked presentation. You can increase your chances of success by calling the prospect to ask questions beforehand. Five minutes of intelligence on what really matters to them can make all the difference. Besides, chances are you’ll be the only one who cares enough to call, so you’ll stand out.
  • If you offer to conduct a complimentary in-house MCLE program, talk to the prospect beforehand and find out exactly what the staff needs to learn so you can tailor your presentation.

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For more information about the Los Angeles Intellectual Property Association click here.

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