« EPA fines DOE: Here's something we don't see every day... | Main | Saturday's Charon QC, and the Brit Blogs. »

March 30, 2007

Asking clients for work: "Why are lawyers so shy?"

Over the years this keeps happening:

I take a General Counsel or non-lawyer executive or CFO of a targeted client to lunch or dinner to ask for work. At some point I briefly say what my firm does and how we can help the client on particular legal issues it has. I ask a few questions. I do a short (very informal) pitch which ends with: "We like [the company] and we'd love to work with you. How can I win/earn your business?"

The client rep laughs and says something like, "That's refreshing--because I can't tell you how many times I have dined, gone to sporting events or played golf with lawyers and they never ask me for my business. Sometimes this goes on for years. I know that's why they are there--but they won't ever get to the point."

"So what's up with that?" he or she continues, often openly amused. "Are most lawyers shy or something? Why would I want to hire a law firm not aggressive enough, direct enough or business-oriented enough to just ask for the work?"

True story: One in-house counsel from a Fortune 100 told me that a partner in a major law firm he saw regularly for years couldn't bring himself to inquire. They lawyer was the in-house guy's next door neighbor.

Is the careful, rational, polite, risk-averse "lawyer personality" to blame? I have no idea.....but I do know that business clients--whether or not they buy the image of the fire-breathing lawyer-AlphaHuman they see on television--expect lawyers to have the business instincts and the stones to ask for the work. So ask. Practice first if you must. Get a pitch and a strategy for each meeting. Don't wait until 30 minutes goes by or the table is cleared. Ask.

Posted by JD Hull at March 30, 2007 07:58 AM


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?