Your lawyers must collaborate across practices and geography to help clients make decisions in situations involving several jurisdictions, or when different laws and regulatory frameworks collide. If you don't have coverage where the issue is, prepare to credibly show your client how you will get the know-how.
Clients don't need the statutes -- that part is easy. The devil is in the nuances that can help them make wise moves: the legal history, which laws are taken seriously, what has been enforced and how, and which problems most typically arise for organizations like theirs.
Fifth, show off your multicultural strengths. Since many of your clients are worldly, they can quickly discern your lawyers' and your firm's ability (or failure) to get things done with a diverse cultural mix of stakeholders, executives, employees and regulators (many of whom have not mastered your language). Clients active in multiple new markets recognize that service styles and practices vary across cultures. They also know that great short- and long-distance service can be as important as technical legal skill in giving valuable counsel.
Service attributes often tilt the scale among competing firms, and multicultural fluency is highly valued -- especially when corporate leaders and customers come from all corners of the earth. International firms that win and keep multipolar clients are made up of lawyers that don't all look and talk alike.
Make sure you effectively present your firm's multicultural makeup. If you are weak in this area, address it. Do your Chicago lawyers know what a dishdasha is? (Hint: an ankle-length, usually long-sleeved robe commonly worn by businessmen in the Persian Gulf.) If your Russian client asks which of your Houston lawyers speak a second language, would the answer put you at a disadvantage?
Sixth, figure out what you do that's better or different and emphasize it. It's important for lawyers to present the firm's advantages in a way that resonates with the particular client. To do that, you need to understand better what your key clients worry most about, for the issue at hand. Is it meeting a deadline, managing a far-flung legal team, compliance monitoring, reducing costs, cross-border coordination, getting along with a prickly regulator? Only then can you present a differentiated offering that addresses the client's specific needs.
Finally, make your global brand real by aligning it with how you serve clients. Global law firm branding tends to overemphasize visual identity and underemphasize how specific services and the firm's resources are discussed with and delivered to clients. Many firms send promotional messages that don't make sense across cultures and thus mean little to the clients you are trying to win.
Unfortunately, lawyer behavior in offices internationally is often disconnected from the brand message, especially in firms that have recently merged. Too often, the meaning of the brand is not translated in a meaningful way on the ground. Local lawyers and staff thus see it as "material from headquarters." It gets worse when clients are handed a local brochure with completely different looks and promises. What impression is the client left with?
That's it: only seven "to do's" to win global clients better than the other guy. This is a big undertaking, and no one said it would be easy. But when this extraordinary storm finally clears, the sun is going to shine bright for the international law firms that take steps necessary to thrive into the 2020s.
E. Leigh Dance is president and founder of legal services management consultancy ELD International.