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Business Development
4 minute read | 1 week ago

News from the Trenches: What To Do (and NOT Do) When Pitching

Photo of Tara Weintritt By: Tara Weintritt

Tara Weintritt, Partner, Wicker Park Group

Daniel H. Weintraub, Chief Administrative and Legal Officer, Audax Group

This post is part of a series with Wicker Park Group in collaboration with Daniel Weintraub to continue bringing the client’s perspective to our readers.

Every law firm we work with is looking to obtain new, or more, business from its most valued clients and prospects, yet the art of “pitching” is a delicate dance that often makes lawyers uncomfortable or not at their best. We often say “One Size Fits One” when it comes to clients’ preferred communication, deliverables, expectations and certainly pitching for new work. That being said, clients are pretty vocal and clear about what resonates and what leaves a negative lasting impression when it comes to pitching a client for new work.

Dan Weintraub is the Chief Legal Officer of Audax Group, one of the leading private equity firms in the middle market. He has certainly had his fair share of law firm pitches during his 18 years in house. While One Size Fits One, Dan’s insights and recommendations speak volumes for how to effectively approach pitching for work.

Weintraub simplifies his advice and says it best: “Pitching outside counsel for work is not rocket science. But it continues to amaze me how many mistakes outside counsel make when pitching me for new business. Use these guidelines as a resource for what to do—and not do—before your next pitch meeting.”

Know your audience.

It’s important to know who you are pitching to (research bios, portfolio companies and industries, etc.) as well as the business. Do your research, review bios and read relevant materials as much as possible. I have had outside counsel show up to pitch without understanding our business or even knowing the backgrounds of the in-house lawyers they are meeting. I learn a lot about your work product if you aren’t prepared for the pitch.

Listen more than you speak.

Don’t go into pitch meetings telling the prospective clients how good you are. Instead, spend the meeting listening to them. We are much more likely to hire counsel who use that time to try to solve a problem for us than talking up their attributes.  

Don’t be greedy.

You aren’t likely to get all the work. Be willing to start with a small matter to show your skills and demonstrate your commitment to the client. That inevitably leads to more work and a deeper relationship. It takes time to build trust and comfort working together.

Don’t bait and switch.

No client will be happy if you pitch for work with one set of attorneys and then use other attorneys on the matter. Bring only those who will be actually doing the work to the meeting.

Understand how we like to work and communicate.

Every client has different communication styles and expectations. Understanding those preferences and ensuring you will meet and possibly even exceed those expectations is important.

Leave the glossy marketing materials at home.

Or send them to your mother, who is probably the only one who cares. And I really don’t want more branded law firm mugs. Instead, when you pitch prospective clients, leave them with something useful like a checklist of legal considerations when an employee leaves, industry insights or a summary of the current trends in the M&A market.

Understand your history with the client.

Determine if you have ever been opposite the prospective client in a matter ahead of the pitch meeting. It is embarrassing for everyone when I ask prospective outside counsel about our previous interactions, and they don’t know or remember. Do the easy work ahead of time and ask your conflicts department.

Don’t pitch multiple teams at once.
You look foolish if you have multiple teams pitching a prospective client without coordination. It demonstrates a lack of forethought and undermines any arguments that your firm operates as a team.

Competition is fierce. Don’t take current relationships for granted.

While most pitches are for new work or relationships, far too many current law firms get comfortable with the status quo and stop visiting clients, adding value, understanding how our needs are adapting and looking to improve. Don’t neglect your current clients while you are chasing others for new work.