Gary J. Ross, like me a former BigLaw corporate and securities attorney who launched his own practice, writes in Above the Law about different types of client pitches, and which are the most effective. After detailing some lame and/or insufficient pitches, such as having gone to the same school as the potential client, he identifies the most effective pitch as being able to convince the potential client that you’ve successfully handled matters like the proposed one many times.
While I agree all of Ross’s points, there are two other elements to my pitch that I usually make:
Personal Service – Many of my clients are referred from colleagues of mine, and the client doesn’t comparison shop with other firms before hiring me, but in situations where I find myself in a competition with another firm, that firm is often a mid-sized or large firm, rather than one with my profile. In that scenario, the appropriate strategy is to play up the differences between my way of doing business versus the large firm way. Accordingly, I emphasize the personal service that I provide. In a big firm (and I speak from much experience there), the pitch meeting will often be led by the senior partner, but after the deal starts, you find yourself dealing mostly with someone more junior. In contrast, I point out to the potential client that I am the sole point of contact, though I have experienced attorneys doing behind-the-scenes work to help me keep up with my workload and be able to be responsive to the requests of multiple clients.
Cost – I’ve received advice from time to time that small law firms shouldn’t emphasize price too much, because it seems to devalue the service being offered. However, legal services are really expensive, regardless of who’s providing them. It’s perfectly valid and appropriate for clients to be focused on these costs and, accordingly, for the attorney to seek to appeal to potential clients on these grounds. Therefore, I’m not at all reticent about discussing my fees early on in my interactions with potential clients, pointing out that my colleagues and I are the same people that had successful careers in prominent firms, but whose services are now available to you at a significant discount to the going rates. I further point out that this is made possible by my firm’s extremely low overhead, with attorneys working from remote locations. In other words, when you hire me, you’re not paying indirectly for expensive artwork on office walls and summer associate trips to Yankee games.
I don’t win all pitches with these arguments – the biggest headwind that I face is that hiring a big firm is a safe choice that won’t likely be second-guessed within an organization – but it’s a pretty compelling story (if I do say so myself) and works plenty of the time.