Roadshows are widely regarded as one of the best ways to build new relationships with prospective clients including local and international law firms, in-house counsel and potential clients.
However, whilst well executed roadshows can be hugely effective, others can be a waste of time and money.
Here are ILFS top tips on making Roadshows work for you and your law firm.
1. Don’t always go for the obvious venues
Major legal centres like London and New York are the favourite targets of most law firms. As a result, it is quite possible that the people you are targeting in these cities may be approached for Roadshow meetings several times a month. Don’t ignore these cities, but also consider if there are other business hubs that you might visit. For example, we have undertaken a couple of very successful Roadshows in Houston, Texas for a law firm with an energy practice. A significant factor in its success was that the firms we met there were less frequently visited on Roadshows and more interested as a result.
In addition, if you attend large conferences like the IBA Annual meeting or INTA, consider approaching those – or part of them – as a Roadshow. Additionally, by tagging on a day or so on at either end you can use it as an opportunity to visit other targets in the city.
2. Consider your offering
Most law firms like to use Roadshows to present all of their firm’s services. Although there are a number of variables, in particular which jurisdiction you are from, it can be far more effective to focus on one or two specialist areas. By way of example, one of our most successful recent roadshows focussed on white collar crime. As with the Houston Roadshow, a significant factor in its success was that we were seeing people who were less frequently visited approached in this way and were more interested as a result.
If you do take this route make sure you are a) focussing on areas where there is a real prospect of referral work; and b) your website and, if possible your Legal Directory rankings, support your case that you have genuine expertise in this area this area. If the firms you approach are going to check you out the chances are that these are the first two places they are going to look.
3. Who do you target?
Target the right firms: The ideal match is where the prospective firm’s focus and your firm’s strengths align. There is no point setting up a meeting with an international law firm that you know is active in your jurisdiction but wants to instruct legal specialists in oil and gas and you are not strong in that practice area. It wastes your time and theirs and could undermine future discussions that are relevant.
You also need to make sure you are meeting the decision-makers at key firms who are actually in a position to instruct you in future (too junior and they will not have enough influence internally, too senior and they will leave the instructions decisions to someone else).
4. The Meetings: fail to prepare and prepare to fail
We have been involved in setting up hundreds of these Roadshow meetings and have also attended a large number. Converting them in to referral work is no easy matter – particularly where other law firms in your jurisdiction are actively pursuing the same targets. Some key success factors for the meetings:
Prepare your standard sales pitch and supporting materials – but also do some homework on who you are seeing and be ready to vary it to meet their particular needs.Think about how you can add value to your target and (if they are a law firm) their clients. What are the major issues on their radar and the new developments they need to be prepared for? Perhaps there is a new piece of legislation that will affect the way they do business or a new development that you have in-depth knowledge of in your jurisdiction? You will also find that many of the people you will see will want to know about the commercial opportunities in the pipeline in your jurisdiction before they became widely known. If there is a big privatisation or infrastructure project in the pipeline, make sure you know about it.
5. Make it a two-way street
A big error that many law firms make at these meetings is that they prepare a great pitch about themselves, but don’t take the opportunity to find out about the practice of the people they are meeting.
Three reasons why you should do this: 1) it’s rude not to. As we often tell our children, this isn’t all about you; 2) Most people enjoy talking about themselves more than listening to others; 3) It is often only when you get an interaction going that you find synergies and areas that you might work together. Also ask how they make their decisions about referring work. If they have a database of foreign law firms ask if you can be included on it.
Also obvious, but often forgotten: Be nice. If they don’t like you, they won’t instruct you.
6. Following the meeting-up
Many law firms spend a large amount of money and fee-earner time on Roadshows, but then fail to follow them up. In all the Roadshows we have worked on we have only had one instance where a law firm has left the meeting with actual instructions. The clear risk is that if you have seen a firm this week, one of your competitors will see them next week and be that much fresher in their mind. Accordingly, have a clear plan for each firm. Putting them on mailshot list might be part of it, but is unlikely to be successful on its own.
7. Create measures for success
How do you measure the success of a Roadshow? Counting how many meetings you have had is easy, but can you quantify results from those efforts? Once the Roadshow is over, you need to continue building and nurturing those business relationships, using the information you have learned from the meetings. You also need to monitor the relationships and interactions to make sure they don’t go cold. If nothing comes from the meetings it is important to investigate the “why” behind the “no” to gain valuable insights you can incorporate into your future business development strategy.
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