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Tips for Outside Counsel: Getting Business From In-House Clients

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By Peter Clarke, JD on June 16, 2015 4:23 PM

In-house attorneys need your services. How can you convince them of this? If your knee-jerk approach is to send sports tickets or cocktail party invites, you may need to reexamine your strategy.

Landing business from in-house clients isn't easy. Like most things in life, it's becoming increasingly competitive. To position your firm for optimal success, there are a few best practice tips to follow.

Really Understand the In-House Client's Business

There's no doubt you're an expert in your field, but you should think beyond your area of expertise when negotiating with potential in-house clients. Really embody the concept that their business objectives are your business objectives. Once you embrace this, consider the services you offer from the perspective of their business model.

For example, an in-house client may ask a nuanced question about a specific project. Even if you give a brilliant analysis of the issue, you may fail to impress if your answer doesn't fall within the scope or ultimate objectives of the client.

Aim for a Long-Term Relationship

This point ties in closely with the first tip above: if you really understand the in-house client's business, then you'll be in a position to suggest how your services will benefit the business in the long-term.

It's important to highlight how your strengths will make you uniquely valuable in the long-term. If the business may face some future challenge, explain how your expertise could be used to overcome that challenge.

Don't Sell Yourself for Having a Lower Rate or Fee

If your primary selling point is that you offer a lower rate or fee than another firm, then you've essentially positioned yourself as the Walmart special offer of lawyers. Results always matter more than specific legal costs. Focus on how your firm will provide the best results. When cost creeps into the conversation, you've already established the fact that your services are valuable.

If your firm does good work, you'll get hired back, even if you don't have the lowest rate. Also, it doesn't hurt if you can have a strong law firm brand to aid in your promotion.

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