As outside counsel, how many times have you asked yourself: how can I get noticed by in-house counsel when I’m not part of a preferred provider network?
Business development can be tough, especially when trying to break into a seemingly impenetrable environment. But as Jaimala Pai, Principal Legal Counsel at Medtronic, shared on the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast, it’s not impossible.
Jaimala provided nine tips for attracting the attention of in-house counsel:
- Don’t Be a Generalist
In-house lawyers are required to be generalists; they need to know a little about a lot of things to cover everyday questions across innumerable subject matter areas. As such, when they look to outside counsel, they’re looking for specialists with a deeper level of experience and more specialized expertise.
While there’s some carryover, one of the reasons in-house lawyers go outside is because they want someone who can provide information in-house counsel doesn’t readily have, e.g., what other companies are doing, without violating privilege, of course. They want more than their narrow view and company perspective on an issue.
- When Writing Your Bio, Be Very Specific
In-house counsel often turns to online biographies to verify your expertise and make sure you can help with the particular issue they have.
That’s why it’s important to be very specific about your area of expertise and call it out in your website biography. Avoid using industry phrases such as, “I work with life sciences companies.” Be more specific and say, “I work with medical device companies.”
- Don’t Fall into the FOMO Trap
Many lawyers are resistant to focusing specifically on what they do, and instead write a laundry list about everything they can possibly do. These lawyers have distinct expertise, but they don’t want to focus in on it for fear of missing out (FOMO). They believe that if they don’t have an extensive list on their bio, potential clients may not see some area in which they can be of help and, therefore, will not reach out and hire them. In reality, most companies want lawyers who have specific expertise.
- “Nobody’s Going to Look For/Find Me Online” Is a Myth
In-house lawyers often do not have extensive information about external resources. They might be familiar with the network of law firms they’re supposed to use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know about the individual lawyers. They may need to conduct additional research online. That’s why you need to create a comprehensive online presence and be visible.
- Invest in Relationships
At networking events, people go straight to the general counsel of a business and don’t realize that junior-level attorneys and mid-level attorneys have considerable authority or influence on hiring decisions. Make sure your networking efforts include everyone. Take an interest in what these attorneys do and how you might be able to help them. You never know who will be a general counsel tomorrow.
- Diversity Is Important When Networking
Numerous studies show that diverse teams produce better economic results. Most companies have taken these studies seriously and made diversity and inclusion a goal. Many law firms also require diverse teams to work on their issues, and they not only want diversity in their in-house team, but also with outside counsel. But beware, you need to ensure that you’re not just bringing someone in on the pitch who is not going to perform meaningful work. Putting out numbers saying you have 20% diversity on a team doesn’t mean anything if that 20% is just doing document review.
There are many organizations that can help firms with diversity, such as Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, Just The Beginning A Pipeline Organization and many national affinity bar associations, to name a few.
- When Making Presentations, Collaborate with In-House Counsel
A request to in-house counsel to collaborate and present with you at an event gets you in front of in-house counsel and begins the process of establishing a relationship. But it also does so much more. In-house counsel can provide real-world examples to help your presentation better connect with the audience.
- Co-Write an Article with In-House Counsel
In-house counsel is just as interested as you are in growing professionally and in getting published articles on their resumes. Don’t assume they’re too busy or don’t want to be involved in this type of activity. Writing together is a great way to build a relationship, and to help build and expand credibility.
- Conduct a Webinar with In-House Counsel
Invite in-house counsel to participate in a webinar with you. Letting them know you’re interested in their perspective goes a long way in developing a relationship. Participating in a webinar would be an opportunity they would highly value.