Being a big fan of Patrick Lamb’s blog In Search of Perfect Client Service, I’m surprised I missed his post about showing, not saying what you will do for the client during a presentation. It’s a must read.
As a long time advocate of presentation by demonstration, I really like the story Patrick tells drawing from an article in The American Lawyer by Charles Green entitled “Selling By Doing.” In short, he relates that in a competition for a matter among three finalists, one firm suggested they begin working on the problem with the prospect during the 90 minutes allotted for their presentation. A brilliant legal marketing strategy. They won of course.
It reminds me of a presentation I made four years ago at the Legal Marketing Association annual conference. The thrust of my speech entitled “Winning Proposals: Demonstrate Your Expertise,” was on how to prepare a proposal generally, and I suggested that by demonstrating your knowledge as part of the proposal, you could get an edge on the competition. I cited three actual case histories that I was involved with that showed how such a strategy won the day (except in one case where a firm blew it for another reason). My examples weren’t as powerful as the one above, but they worked.
If interested in a brief recap of the 3 examples I used
in my talk….

Case No. 1 – David vs. Goliath: National Coordinating Counsel for Non-Compete Clauses. A couple hours of work by an associate in the law library generated a digest of the relevant law in all 50 states. Since they included this as part of the proposal, it demonstrated (according to the decision maker) that the smaller firm must know what it was talking about, and that they were aggressively seeking the work by taking the time to include the information as part of their proposal.
Case No. 2 – Show how you would handle a similar case
. A firm requested copies and reviewed two cases that the target company had previously lost, and demonstrated how it would have handled the matters in their proposal. According to one of three decision makers, that would have won them the competition.
However, they lost it during the oral presentation by sending the wrong lawyer (not the one with the demonstrated expertise, nor the one who would handle the work) to make the presentation because he was local. So, the “second place” firm got the matter; and the reason it did wasn’t that difficult of a decision, according to one of the decision makers, because he had attended a seminar several years earlier by one of the team members and was impressed with his knowledge of employment law. Obviously, seminars are another way to demonstrate expertise.
Case No. 3 – Public Unions Contract Negotiations
. The winning firm as part of their proposal had reviewed the existing labor contracts, identified how the law had changed in a number of areas, and suggested how they would avoid several provisions in the existing contracts.
What made this win all the more impressive is the environment in which the competition was held. During a period of economic downturn, a newly elected mayor, formerly with a major Ohio law firm, issued an RFP for a firm to negotiate all four of the city’s public union contracts. To the astonishment of many Ohio firms, the contract was awarded to a non-Ohio law firm, which had proposed the highest fees. Further, a number of the selection committee members had been personally involved in negotiating the existing union contracts that the winning firm critiqued. So, not only was the winning firm’s strategy risky and fees higher, they certainly were not politically connected. At a post selection meeting with a city official, it was learned that their thorough proposal was the reason they won. And, they sent the right person from Chicago to the oral presentation.