EP 66 – Peter Walts – Building Business Development Through IP and Value Proposition

Peter Walts is the Founder and CEO of Centropy Group as well as the COO of Employment Law Alliance, otherwise known as ELA. Peter is focused on creating new value and client momentum through business strategy, alliances, licensings and transactions. He has been in this business for about 20 years now and has enjoyed helping companies look at building alliances and building business development within their firms. Has been helping law firms specifically for about 7 years primarily through ELA. Peter also hosts a few different podcasts but mainly focuses on Employment Matters. 

You can learn more about Peter at centropygroup.com and you can learn more about Employment Law Alliance at ela.law. You can find his podcast ‘Employment Matters’ at https://employment_matters.buzzsprout.com and connect with him via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/peterwalts/

Leveraging Intellectual Property Internally

They call it one of the business development assets,  not only the logo, the trademark and those things, but it’s the way the firm is perceived in the market and the individual expertise of the subject matter experts within the firm. When you break it out and look at how firm’s can leverage their intellectual property it is really the things that they are doing one-to-one with a client and how they can package that in a way that it is now creating best practices or experiences that other firms can benefit from. The way that you help someone may be different than the way that someone else helps them. Look at your firm and really take inventory of what the practice areas are that you have strength in, what relationships that you have strength in – not only existing customers, but market segments, industry segments – and how you can take your message with that subject matter expertise out into the marketplace and use it to help others, even other law firms. Your clients are looking for the best advice that they can get and the best relationships that they can get so wherever you can help them by leveraging not only what you know but who you know is going to help them immeasurably and they will stick with you forever. 

Look at intellectual property as an intangible – as the expertise of the firm, as the reputation of the firm, as the good works of the firm – and then move through the organization. You should be mining talent right from the beginning as a law firm and look at the intellectual property that the younger lawyers can bring to the table when looking at social media or reaching out or building a parallel network within the firm or with another group of young lawyers across the country or across the globe. Do this in a way that is inclusive and that clients see them as a generous provider of content and not as a competitor to all of the other law firms in that space. Look for opportunities to team with other colleagues in your practice area from other firms or to find other firms outside of your geographic area that you can partner with that will really make your message stronger to the clients that you have and make you more attractive to clients that you want to bring in.

Assessing Your Unique Value Proposition

It is important to identify what your unique proposition is. We all have at the baseline that we are lawyers and we can all assume that we are good lawyers and that we have existing clients. We all accomplish those things in different ways and may be handling the same type of legal issues in a unique manner. Ask yourself what industries do you have particular expertise in and how can you help guide that industry? If you have one client in an area, you have expertise in that area. There are opportunities for you to look as a firm for marketing. Don’t think of the other law firms in your market as competitors, think of them as service providers who are all providing unique value propositions or unique intellectual property to help clients and clients will choose where they want to work. Let’s all grow up and work together because we need each other. That is the strength of networks and alliances and the formulas of those is how you put together what is usually an unlikely combination.

Benefits of Strategic Alliances for Law Firms

There is uniqueness in being an independent firm and building an alliance if you get that opportunity to continue in your own practice and fill in those areas where someone else may have strength. All parties in an alliance see value in a similar way – start small and one of the best things is that you just have to work on something together. The advantages in alliances over acquisitions is that they are quick to form. You don’t have to have a lot of equity in it, they’re flexible, you can decide as a group what works,and  they don’t take much cash or drain a lot of resources. Try something that allows you to align around a certain practice area. Today, some of our vendor sources may be in a lot of trouble so now is a good time to start thinking how do we as an industry go out and start building alliances so that if someone is struggling and they are critical to the supply chain we have a way to help them. You can create vertical alliances or you can create alliances around technology and those are things that make alliances beneficial and there really isn’t a restriction on where you can have them. 

Think about some of the other firms that you have strong relationships with that are not in your market and some other firms that have expertise like you do in another industry segment and what other people in your industry you know that you can partner with where you don’t compete directly. That is the making of the beginning of an alliance. Firms that have developed and documented their intellectual property may be better suited to be a part of these strategic alliances. Think about what you have to offer and what they have to offer and what you can bring together. Marketers need to be looking to other marketers for best practice. They need to be listening to podcasts to learn how they can build on the knowledge of others. The first thing to do is take an inventory of what the firm has to offer and go down to the individual person. Find out where all of the intellectual property or firm assets are across the skillsets, the interest, the industry expertise, the relationships and the charitable contributions and start to knit those together with who you can partner with.

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