Posted by: johnocunningham | April 29, 2013

How Much Do You Care About Your Client’s Business/Industry?

As previously reported on this blog, the 2012 Chief Legal Officer Survey by Altman Weil demonstrated that, on a scale of 1 to 10, CLOs rated “understanding of our business/industry” as a 9.6 factor in hiring decisions, far outpacing the quality of a law firm or lawyer’s written work or Website content, and even ranking a full point ahead of referrals from valued colleagues.

Another 2012 study by HubbardOne on “Building Relationships With Global General Counsel” similarly concluded that a law firm’s knowledge of a prospective client’s industry and business is of greater importance than flexible pricing and almost all other key factors in choice of counsel.

Thus, it is pretty clear by now that lawyers and law firms competing for corporate clients should be well-informed about their industries, as well as the laws affecting them.

Furthermore, this task of learning about client industries is not one that can just be delegated to law librarians or marketers. Those professionals can help do the research, but the lawyers, as service providers, need to review the highlights of that research and take it to heart and memory. The client’s business is the client’s love and passion, and you can no more ignore it than you could ignore their children at a social event.

Besides, it is not that hard to learn about an industry, and it can be fun to figure out the role it plays in the economy.  So here are just a handful of practical ideas for lawyers and legal marketers who want to know how to learn more about a client’s industry:

  • Try reading the top trade publications in that industry;
  • Try reading Google Alerts on the industry (click the “More” tab on Google search, then click “even more” and then click on “Alerts” under specialized search);
  • Try attending an industry trade show or educational seminar;
  • Try “following” thought leaders in an industry on Twitter (many CEOs and industry analysts are avid Twitter users) to get into their heads;
  • Try subscribing to custom Web material, such as that you might find in SmartBrief; or
  • Try going to lunch or dinner with someone from the industry you want to follow, and asking them for advice on “getting up to speed.”

There are many ways to learn about an industry quickly now, for no or relatively little expense, and there is no excuse for not doing it; and oh by the way, even if you don’t do it, I guarantee that one of your competitors will. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you care about your client’s business?



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