Litigation is impossible to sell. After all you can’t just pick up a phone and cold call a prospect to see if they have a dispute and need your services. Nor do most rational people want to be a situation where they are in a dispute with someone. So therefore, how DO you sell your services as a litigator and build up a strong business case to make partner? In reality you must create the conditions and environment where people want to buy from you. In this article, I look at the 6 key things you MUST do in order to build up a strong and healthy practice as a litigator. i.e. helping people choose to buy from you.
1. Be very specific about the type of work you want to win
At the moment I am coaching at least 5 litigators on their journey to partnership. This has helped me realise the following:
- most litigators who work for a London city law firm have a specialism in financial services
- fraud and investigations tend to be a commonly held specialism for litigators
- shareholder and contractual disputes are the bread and butter caseload for most litigators
In other words there is a real challenge for litigators, particularly in a London city firm, to stand out. If you are a litigator reading this and wondering ‘how to sell litigation’ you are not alone. If you are going to stand out in your network then you need to specialise and be known for that specialism – and not just do what all the other litigators locally to you do. This specialism could either be about a sector or demographic or technical specialism. E.g.
- Litigator of choice for ultra high net wealth individuals
- Residential property litigator
- Sports law litigator
- Business Crime Specialist within Financial Services
2. Stay Close To Your Crown Jewels
An insolvency firm I work with call the people that they know will always send them work their Crown Jewels. I.e. your crown jewels are your relationships which will bring send you work regularly. This is work they could have sent to other litigators but choose to send only to you. Ideally about 60% of your available business development time and effort should be spent on identifying, nurturing and maintaining your relationships with your Crown Jewels. Perhaps the best way of thinking about ‘how to sell litigation’ is to get your network to recommend you when the work is available.
3. Build a strong credible brand to differentiate yourself
When a client decides that they need to litigate, they want a lawyer they can really trust. This means that they need to know that you can really help them. Therefore, you have to have built a credible reputation and strong online footprint. Therefore, think about:
- writing articles which demonstrate your credibility and expertise to help your ideal client
- not claiming to be able to help everyone
- crafting a LinkedIn profile which shows why you are the litigator they should trust with their dispute
- creating a first impression which helps make sure you do get the call when recommended by a multiplier or introducer
4. Have at least 4 separate referral networks
Your referral networks are groups of people who are well-positioned to send you litigation work. Because litigation work comes in fits and starts you need to have more than just one referral network to broaden your reach. Typically these networks will consider of the following people:
- The internal firm network, particularly from your opposite number on the non-contentious side
- Your competitors who are ‘conflicted’ by a particular piece of work
- The advisor network who have a similar audience to yourself, e.g. accountants, bankers, consultants
- Barristers who specialise in your particular area of law
Need help to build your referral networks? How about buying a copy of Poised For Partnership, where Chapter 9 helps you build your referral networks.
5. Spend 40% of your available business development time on building awareness throughout your network
Litigation, like other ‘distressed services’ has a lumpy ‘pipeline’. It is not the sort of work you can conjure up from nowhere. As a result you may find that there are people in your network who can send you work but maybe only one case every few years. The skill to making sure that it is you who gets this work is to decide how to create a general level of awareness through your wider network, not just your Crown Jewels. This could be by:
- being present on LinkedIn and engaging with your network on LinkedIn
- using Twitter to have short, sharp conversations with your wider networks
- generating PR
- writing blogs and circulating this via your network and social media channels
6. Earn the right to have the conversation by using content
Typically most clients who have need of a litigator’s services will be seeking out information before they make contact with a lawyer. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s ‘The guide to LinkedIn for sophisticated marketers’, buyers will be 90% of the way through their buying process BEFORE making contact with a professional advisor. Therefore spend time talking with past litigation clients to find out what was important to them before used your services and what is still important to them now. Then use this knowledge to produce content to help answer the questions and solve the challenges your ideal client may have on their journey to litigation.
If you treat selling litigation as creating the right conditions for clients to buy from you, you will not go far wrong.