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International law firm and the competition

How can a new international law alliance distinguish itself among the competition?

Optimal business development for an international law alliance

Establishing an international law alliance is a good move for a law firm or lawyers to embark upon. It provides law firms with formalized partners in foreign markets that will think of them first when referring business. However, in order to realize more new business from these alliances, it is imperative for lawyers to establish and maintain a series of proactive business development initiatives around these alliances. Importantly, once these alliances are established. member firms must now rely largely on lawyer referrals emanating from alliance jurisdictions from their new alliance partners in those jurisdictions only - as other law firms in those jurisdictions (some of whom may previously have been referral sources) will not be inclined to refer business to a firm with a formal alliance with a domestic competitor.

Two core business development initiatives for law alliances

1. Establish a dedicated initiative which creates a pipeline of new business

Law alliance members should establish in each member firm a business development initiative staffed by internal professionals where coordination between offices serves to facilities the identification of commercially actionable opportunities for ideal potential clients for specific alliance member firms (and vice-versa) - and then seeks to pursue discussions with those prospective clients - and see those discussions to the close of new client engagements. Bringing commercial opportunities to prospective clients and existing clients will distinguish your law alliance as one which thinks of clients needs first and seeks to be a conduit to opportunity where alliance member firms can act for clients in foreign jurisdictions.

Firms ought to seek to emulate the award-winning sales pipeline business development initiative Baker & McKenzie operates in London - when it comes to how to effectively establish and maintain this initiative.

2. Establish a custom social media initiative

By their very nature, international law alliances span many time zones and geographical locations. Hence, establishing a highly effective means by which to communicate key messages to potential clients and referral sources on digital platforms globally - becomes more imperative as time goes on and these platforms become more important. A blog shared by the alliance where member firm lawyers blog about issues of key important to ideal potential clients is well worth the effort. It will allow the alliance to be acknowledged as a go-to firm for alliance jurisdiction-specific advisement.

According to The Lawyer, citing firm leaders in both firms, the key characteristics of the Bird & Bird/HMP alliance include:

  • A cooperation agreement that is neither a profit-sharing arrangement nor an exclusive strategic alliance.
  • The deal didn't require regulatory approval.
  • Low risk, cost-effective and practical
  • Bird & Bird has been working with HMP for a decade on Korea-related matters

All these characteristics are helpful for the Bird& Bird/HMP alliance, However, they're not enough nor are they the most important elements necessary to create a successful law firm marketing alliance. There are other, more essential components which are required for these tie-ups to work. They include:

  • In order to effectively build an effective marketing tie-up with another firm, it is not enough to simply establish a relationship and “hope” your new partner refers business to you (however attractive the tie-up may appear in theory). Both firms must take a proactive approach to business development as a part of their firm culture and the joint alliance business development efforts in particular.
  • Both firms must commit to regularly identifying and pursuing outstanding leads they are developing for one another. In order to do this most effectively, large international firms need to have internal staff in place capable of performing all these tasks (from research and identification to pursuit and capture of new business - whether from existing or new potential clients. Both efforts are unique and staffing each requires understanding which skills sets are essential to the roles. Placing a practicing partner in charge of managing the day-to-day efforts associated with implementing this effort is not advisable -- appointing a highly capable, full-time business development professional is).
  • An effort must be put in place to regularly identify and review new leads and discuss what specific opportunities exist in your respective markets – so as to help your alliance counterparts narrowly focus on who they should be contacting (existing clients/new potential clients) in their jurisdiction on your behalf.
  • Finally, following-up during the entire business development process must be done with any new lead generated. Without sufficient follow-up, the purpose for establishing the alliance will be defeated.
  • John Grimley
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