Today a friend, Jon Klemens of the Legal Research Center, told me about RAND Corporation’s upcoming conference Alternative Litigation Finance in the U.S.  A key, tantalizing subject of this conference is the emerging trend of third-party litigation funding as a way for companies to pursue otherwise unaffordable litigation.  Whether or not this will really take off in the U.S. legal market is debatable.  What is not debatable is that innovators are focused on eradicating obstacles to buying legal services – in this case the lack of money to pursue litigation.

Riffing on this theme, it occurs that there are many other obstacles that stand in the way of buyers saying “engaged!” At my firm, Womble Carlyle, for some time we actually have been utilizing nonlawyer staff – sophisticated business executives in their own right – to help clients and potential clients with their businesses.  Only now, in the context of the RAND conference, can I see that while we certainly were demonstrating a commitment to help (huge in the mind of inside counsel, according to the BTI Consulting Group), what we also were doing was removing obstacles to the purchase of legal services.  As long as I, as Chief Client Development Officer, can characterize staff help as a reasonable step en route to selling legal services, these services are free and a total value-add. 

A few examples:

  • We helped a between-gigs CEO land a new CEO gig by introducing him to a former boss and his wife, the largest shareholder in a significant S Corporation. 
  • Unemployed inside counsel have an obvious obstacle in their purchase pathway; that’s why Womble sales and marketing professionals keep their ears to the ground for new employment opportunities.  Because Womble sales and marketing professionals are continually out and about in our communities, we have perhaps an even broader range of contacts than many lawyers.  When we hear about openings, we connect the dots….quickly. 
  • A real estate developer who was acquiring multifamily properties needed to acquire a management company.  Womble staff identified and contacted target management companies on his behalf, ultimately resulting in a successful acquisition.
  • The Federal Government increasingly is a source of funding for private businesses.  We performed extensive research projects to identify government funding opportunities (including those relating to stimulus dollars) for various clients and prospective clients.
  • Our digital marketing director advised a company on social media best-practices.
  • Our communications team advised a promising start-up company on branding.

Last Friday, we hit “send” on a proposal to a major technology company.  That company’s Request for Proposal had asked each law firm respondent to delineate “Why your firm is uniquely positioned….”   Wish we could get that proposal back for a quick addition:   Our whole firm is built to help.