I should qualify this post by saying that I am referring to a civil litigation (DR) department, but I am sure that a number of the points are applicable to other areas of litigation (e.g. Human Rights and planning):
- Believe in yourself. You have to want to be seen as the best in your field. Marketing a number 2 position is a non-starter.
- Understand your firm’s reputation in the market. Not everyone can be Herbert Smith. If you don’t have a reputation for litigation, then how will you address that over the long haul?
- What is your brand? If you are just starting up, why would a client chose you over a more experienced litigator? A quick SWOT analysis should sort things out.
- Be realistic. You can’t expect to advertise your way to work. Calling yourself the best litigator in the South West as one person once did is a sure sign that you lack the confidence in your own ability.
- If you must shout from the rooftops about your Uber firm, then it is far better that your clients do that job for you. Have you thought about a video or audio testimonial?
- Stop positioning yourself in the eyes of your client as a distress purchase. Don’t give them the option of thinking “Do I really need one of them?”
- Make yourself known to the centres of influence in your neck of the woods. That may be local business people or influencers within your sector.
- Look for a suitable platform to showcase your expertise but more importantly your innate sense of common sense. A litigation seminar is unlikely to float anyone’s boat but certain industries, and therefore certain key events, attract more than their fair proportion of disputes. Property is a good example as is the retail sector.
- Think outcomes and not the process. Clients couldn’t give a fig about the latest CPR update, the ratio of a case or how much time the disclosure process is going to take. In my experience the only time that clients get excited about the process is when they think some smoking gun exists which they are going to unearth by some convoluted process of disclosure or the surprise factor that comes with seeing the other side’s (paper thin) evidence.
- Identify either a sector that floats your boat or specific clients who you would love to work with. Of course you cannot target individuals in quite the same way (certainly in respect of the latter point) but you can focus your BD efforts on developing a profile as a specialist and not the ubiquitous GP.
- Get comfortable with writing memorable copy for the local press, specialist publications (if they exist) and appearing in front of the camera or behind a microphone.
- Don’t miss up the opportunity to comment on a case that is within your sector. You don’t always have to go through a PR agency. If you have a client win then subject to confidentiality try to make the very most of the successful outcome. Even if you lose a case there may be an important point of principle worth dealing with.
- Work the internal market and work the internal market some more. You have to be prepared to bend over backwards and some more for your colleagues and their clients who they are about to lovingly entrust to you. If you don’t return their calls or give the impression that their clients are just hard work or non-payers then it will be the occasion when they refer elsewhere (sometimes out of the firm) that you will regret.
- Manage your client’s expectations to the best of your ability. Don’t waffle or BS them but then again be prepared to comment on their case and not just the “Well, in all honesty, it could go either way”. Clients just want to know if they are going to win, and win big, or see off the claim for nothing.
- Be prepared to understand the case beyond what the client expects. Know the evidence back to front. If you can paginate the papers early on, as I often did, then your engender a new level of trust with the client. Nothing annoys a client more than you not knowing the evidence.
- Don’t pass the client around. All the client feels is happening is that they are paying for your own internal problems.
- Be honest with the fees estimate. All too often I have read a retainer letter that is so woefully off the mark as to be laughable. It’s almost as if they are looking at a different case. If you think the case is going to cost the client £50,000 then tell the client. Yes you can price it in stages but once you are on the escalator it is impossible to get off.
- Finally, make sure that you are completely open on the up to date fees position. If you have given an estimate or better still a fixed fee then stick to it as if your life depended on it. A reputation for not be open and honest on fees is very hard to shake off.
Just remember there is no silver bullet but there are a lot of darts that you can be aiming at the bulls-eye. You may have a small chance of hitting the bulls-eye depending on your aim, but sooner or later, the trickle of work will turn into a steady stream and hopefully a constant. Yes the market is flat but you stand no chance of winning work from your competitors unless you are prepared to put in the effort to outshine them.
Yes I know you cannot equate Mars bars to litigation but that is not the point. If you earn a reputation as the best litigation firm or person in your market or sector then after a while clients will search you out. After all they want the best in their corner where they are involved in the serious business of litigation.
~ JS ~