Getting Your Foot in the Door with In-House Counsel: Tips for Law Firms

In the last few blogs, I shared insights on working with in-house counsel based on advice provided by a panel at a Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Association meeting. In this blog, I’d like to switch gears and share some tips the panel offered for getting your foot in the door with in-house counsel. How do you meet these people in the first place, and how do you get their attention?

To read the first post of this series, click here.

  • In-house counsel tends to be active in professional organizations and serve on civic, non-profit boards. Follow their example and you’re bound to meet them; however, equally important is to build a social network by doing things you like.
  • Keep up with former colleagues at other firms. You never know who will take a job as in-house counsel or become a referral source for you after you’ve moved on.
  • Since it’s risky for in-house counsel to bring in a new firm rather than simply calling the “old” one, they won’t hire you just because you send them a letter. They want certainty. So what can you do if you’re pitching your litigation services and they’ve never seen you in court? You could invite them to view your participation in a mock trial at the Trial Advocacy Project, marksman hearings or some similar venue where you can showcase your skills in action. Even if they don’t show up, at least your invitations will keep your name and expertise in front of them.
  • A good way to get in-house counsel’s attention is to inform them immediately (within a half day) when you see a case filed against their organization. They may not be aware of it yet. Send them an email and explain how your expertise and experience relate to the case. State very specifically why they should consider hiring you. For example, don’t just say “I do IP work,” but refer to your experience handling matters involving the specific technology at issue, before a specific judge, etc. Don’t send a copy of the complaint.
  • In-house counsel welcomes useful, actionable information. While an analysis of a recent court decision may be useful, it’s not something in-house counsel will keep around. Instead, send business-oriented intelligence they will save for future reference. One panel gave such an example that caught in-house counsel’s attention and that he’s kept: A listing of the costs of filing patents in each of five different countries.
  • A merger or acquisition might be an opportunity for an entrée, so keep your eye out for them. In an effort to consolidate, the company may want to replace a larger law firm or one based elsewhere with what it sees as a more agile firm.

Once you have your foot in the door and are in front of in-house counsel, what does it take to get the work? That’s a whole other challenge, which will be the subject of the next blog.

Click to read more about our marketing and public relations experience for intellectual property law firms.

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


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