As the CEO and Managing Partner of one of the United States’ fastest growing law firms in the USA I’ve landed a few whales, some sharks, bass, walleyes and guppies. A whale is a mega client that spends more than a $100 Million a year in legal. As a relatively small firm, I’ve got a small slice of some whale business and I’ve been steadily expanding my work. So, how do you land a whale?
1. Go fishing- You need to go where the decision makers are. Become engaged in professional activities, volunteer to speak on panels, move up in leadership and attend conferences where the in house lawyers for the whales are located. The odds are the whales are not just swimming around in your backyard unless you’re a NYC lawyer. This means you can’t just build relationships with the local operations teams. While those relationships never hurt, it’s the decision makers at corporate you need to meet.
2. Have a hook- Once you get in front of the whale, what will you use for your hook? What makes you stand out from as one whale in house leader says, “the long line of lawyers waiting in the hallway to do our work.” Perhaps it’s your unique career history in their business, having handled similar matters, your structure, your connections, your team, your geography, your diversity, or how your values align. Know and practice your unique ability so you can articulate it like a pro when given a shot.
3. Upgrade your boat- First impressions matter. A wooden fishing boat is not going to land the whale. You’ll need to have a firm of a size, scope and capabilities to be able to handle a whale. The whale knows this, be sure you do too. Before going after the whale make sure you’re not taking on too much that could actually sink your boat. This is one reason I’ve been growing my team, geography, and team capabilities. We are not just growing for the sake of growth. We know we need to have deeper resources to handle more of the work we want to be doing... for the whales.
4. Have a plan- While it may be possible to hand out one business card on an elevator to a whale and land it, I wouldn’t count on it. Rather, knowing where your whales swim, joining their organizations, rising in the ranks, building relationships and capabilities and then going for the whale will increase your success rate.
5. Be persistent- I have one whale I’ve been pursuing for a decade. I’m closer than ever now, but money still has not changed hands. I’ve got over 50 different relationships inside the whale at the national level in the legal department, with the diversity committee, in different legal departments, with local and regional presidents, and with operations leaders. This relationship has required persistence. They know we want the work and we’ve completed RFPs. My entire team knows the whale is a target. I know I probably need to open one to two more offices before I’ll get a significant slice of the work. In the meantime, I continue to pursue the whale and stay in front of it. We will land this whale. We are persistent.
Now, once you land the whale you certainly must do excellent work and provide outstanding service. After putting over ten years into landing a whale, do you think I’m going to release it? You also don’t want to forget about the other fish you serve and how you’re going to continue to provide the guppy good help and if you’re not how you’re going to transition your practice. After all, the guppies got you to the whale.
For more information about Goosmann Law Firm, contact our Sioux Falls, Sioux City, or Omaha office today!