Toyota Motors USA announced last week that it would hire Alston + Bird, an Atlanta-based law firm, to handle the defense work related to its unintended-acceleration problems. An Atlanta firm. This is fascinating because Toyota’s headquarters are in Los Angeles and the courtrooms will be located in Southern California.
Jim Merklinger of the Association of Corporate Counsel recently relayed the story of a corporation that held a beauty contest to select a firm. Of the group invited to pitch, most were New York-based law firms. Whom did they choose? A Kentucky firm. Yes, Kentucky. Wow.
Stories like these are becoming increasingly commonplace—because the rules have changed.
The internet has created a world without borders. It has revolutionized the ability to find a precise solution that best addresses your exact needs—regardless of geographic location—and has changed the business culture in the process. One result of this is that clients are now increasingly willing to engage professionals halfway around the world, as long as they have exactly the right expertise.
As traditionally local practices are forced to compete in a much wider marketplace (regional, national or even international), many firms will need to rethink the way they develop business—or risk losing out to new competitors.
So how do you win at this new game? There are two big steps that will put you on the right path:
- Become a micro-specialist: There are Trusts and Estates lawyers located in every town. However, a client might be open to working remotely with—and even pay a premium for—a T&E lawyer with special expertise in, say, multi-generational family businesses.
- Demonstrate your expertise: Write. Speak. Blog. Tweet. Instead of telling prospects that you’re on the cutting edge—demonstrate it. Give away your best insights. This type of “thought leadership” work is vital to building your reputation as the must-hire expert.
There’s one more thing that you might consider: as more and more business is conducted electronically, your office is no longer where prospects’ first impressions of you are made—they now occur when your prospects visit your website. As a result, maintaining appearances at your address in the virtual world should be treated with as much care as your physical office location.