November 23, 2015 Practice Points

Know Your Bench Strength

Your association with your firm may be more powerful than you realize.

By James Goldschmidt

While more seasoned lawyers may be sought out based on their individual reputation, younger attorneys will more often be known by association with their firm. Wherever your firm is well regarded, you will commonly be asked about your firm’s bench strength in a particular area of substantive law—and often, it will be a field completely unrelated to your practice area.

A typical comment will go something like this: “Oh, so you’re at Quarles & Brady? I’ve heard of them. Do they do any patent litigation?” How you answer this question could determine whether the next comment changes the subject or opens a client-development opportunity.

If you don’t know your firm’s bench strength, your answer will likely be vague or noncommittal—and therefore unhelpful. Answers such as “I think we do” or “I’d have to check our website” may make it appear as if you are unsure of the services your firm offers, uninformed about practice groups other than your own, or even uninterested in the broader work of your firm. And even if none of these is true, your questioner will walk away without the information she was looking for.

At the same time, many young lawyers fall into the opposite trap: over-committing. Resist the temptation to tout your firm’s excellence in every field under the sun. While such praise may be well deserved, offering it without knowing its accuracy could lead to client disappointment or worse down the road.

Instead, do the work necessary to respond to such questions from a position of knowledge and confidence:

  • Regularly review the portion of your firm’s website describing your firm’s general service areas and subspecialties.
  • Review communications from your marketing team describing recent firm successes across a variety of practice areas. (If your marketing team doesn’t produce such communications, encourage them to do so.)
  • Perhaps most importantly, find opportunities to get to know colleagues outside your practice group and talk to them about the work they’re doing. These personal connections will enhance your ability to describe various practice areas when asked.

The goal of these efforts is not to memorize every last subspecialty your firm offers—that would be impossible—but to have a working knowledge of your firm’s strengths. When you use this knowledge to cross-sell effectively, everybody wins.

Keywords: litigation, professional liability, marketing, bench strength, networking, cross-selling

— James Goldschmidt, Quarles & Brady, LLP, Milwaukee, WI


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