My overall contention is that lawyers don’t ask enough questions before they attempt to sell their services. Here are some good ones. Some relate to a particular matter. Others are more suitable for being appointed on to a panel.
Of course, selling doesn’t work if you simply go through a list of pre-prepared questions. There is no equivalent McDonald’s formula for making the perfect hamburger! It works much better if you tune in carefully to what the prospect says and ask follow up probing questions and summarise frequently, like this.
- It sounds to me from what you’re saying that x,y, z are all important to you. Is that right? Can you say more about that?
The more you have invested in building a close working relationship and established your credibility, rapport and trust the more incisive and probing your questions can be. It’s like you need to earn the right to ask them.
Here is a list of other killer questions that might be useful to cover:
- What proportion of your legal work is catered in-house and how much is outsourced to external law firms? Follow up their answer with something like:
- Tell me more about why you operate in this way?
- What do you look for in external law firms? Prompts will help establish what is more important to them: fees (competitive/ discounted/capped); legal advice; innovative solutions; added value services such as training/knowledge-sharing and research services?). Follow up their answer with
- Tell me more about why those services are important to you?
- How do you like to work with external law firms? Very important question to establish preferred working practices: how many touch-points do they want with a law firm, do they have large teams, who are their internal clients, do they want the relationship to be built vertically (i.e. only top people) or horizontally (i.e. across all levels of the organisation), what level of communication do they like/need? Again, follow up their answer with
- Tell me more about why that kind of relationship is important to you?
- What are your business priorities at the moment, for the next 6 months, 12 months?
- In which jurisdictions?
- What projects are you currently working on?
- Tell us more about the timeframe for these projects?
- How might you use external counsel to support you on this?
- When will you be appointing external counsel?
- What might we need to do to put ourselves in the frame to be appointed
Here is a list of questions that might be specifically related to being appointed to law firm panels:
- What sort of law firm panel arrangements do you currently have in place?
- Who is responsible for your law firm panel review?
- How many law firms do you have on your panel?
- Which law firms are currently on your panel?
- Tell us about the process you use to review your panel and the frequency of panel reviews?
- What would be the process for us to be considered for your law firm panel?
Not all of these questions will be relevant for all circumstances. The fundamental idea is that you need to think about what ideally you’d like to know before you pitch. Then really, really listen and show that you’ve heard.
By doing this, you’ll be the hot favourite to be appointed because clients love it when you tune in to their needs.