How does a lawyer pitch for a big client: explain how many things your firm can do, or pitch yourselves as a specialist?
A recent interview the General Counsel at Schneider Electric, Peter Wexler, suggested pitching in a focused manner – such as focusing on a specific business development or a particular piece of litigation.
“If they’ve seen something in the paper, or they see we’ve built a factory somewhere, for example, and they say, ‘We know you have other counsel, but we’re the best firm, because we’ve done these certain things,’ I’m going to listen. If they come in and they say, ‘We can do it cheaper,’ I’m probably not going to listen,” he told Bloomberg BNA.
The best way to get a lot of work, Wexler suggested, is to do a little work well — “Once you get your nose in the tent, and then you do some ancillary work and show your value, that’s when you’re going to get business.”
Excerpts from the interview with Bloomberg BNA:
Bringing in multiple firms can create a tension, but we hire firms that are willing to work together to get the best result. That’s the thing. You need team players. Everyone has to work together to get the deal done.
A lot of firms will come back to me and tell me they can do more for me. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to buy things I need, rather than be cross-sold on products I don’t need.
That’s the best way to market services — come back and say, “We did a great job for you here, so can we do something else?” That’s better than coming in cold and saying, “I can do everything for you.”
I don’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think law firms have a very tough task [in doing their homework on a corporate client]. I don’t envy them. Probably the best thing they can do is pick a very small, a very select few areas where they can add value.
Below is an edited transcript of the second installment of the interview.
Big Law Business: You’re the only GC I’ve called who has an assistant in Paris, for example. Do you put any special demands on law firms because of how global you are?
Wexler: I ask very few firms to operate that way, because the way we’re set up doesn’t require it. We have local firms who operate locally. It’s really only in the M&A context that we require firms to operate cross-jurisdictionally. To assist them, sometimes we’ll bring in multiple firms.
That brings up an interesting point — bringing in multiple firms can create a tension. We hire firms that are willing to work together to get the best result. That’s the thing. You need team players. Everyone has to work together to get the deal done.
Big Law Business: What are some big differences between the relationship between inside and outside counsel in the U.S., and the relationship between inside and outside counsel in Europe? Is the balance of power the same in both places?
Wexler: I think we’ve achieved a balance of power that’s more or less the same globally. That may be my philosophy. I don’t think it’s necessarily about a change in the market. But we don’t see a substantive difference between our interactions from the European side or the U.S. side.
Big Law Business: You said a lot of firms try to woo you, but you’re a tough date. What’s the best way to make a good first impression?
Wexler: Do really good work. A lot of firms will come back to me and tell me they can do more for me. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to buy things I need, rather than to be cross-sold on products I don’t need. I think there’s a great deal of pressure on law firms to develop business that way. But the best way for them to get business is provide exceptional work and build credibility over time.
Read more at Bloomberg BNA
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