How Minority-Owned Firms Can Become “Preferred Providers”

Diverse-owned firms continue to hit barriers when it comes to getting legal work from corporate clients. A recent study conducted by the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms and the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession revealed that women-owned firms tend to be the “diverse” outside counsel getting corporate work, rather than minority-owned firms. 

While nearly 18% of legal work delegated to outside counsel goes to women-owned firms, only 4% is assigned to minority-owned firms. And 14% of the firms on companies’ preferred-provider lists are women-owned firms, compared with just 6% of minority-owned firms.

The reasons behind this, as we know, are rooted in racial bias and just plain ignorance of what these practitioners have to offer. And while it is the responsibility of the buyers of legal services to become more educated about available service providers, the report identified some action items minority-owned firms can take to stand out during the RFP/pitching process for corporate work. All point toward effectively communicating the firm’s value and the results they’ve delivered to clients.

How are you telling your firm’s story?

Minority-owned firms are more likely to win business if they persuasively showcase the unique background, skills and expertise they bring to the table. Here are four ways to start:

  1. Dispel misconceptions. Some corporate clients may believe that all minority-owned firms are too small or niche to handle complex matters. Prove them wrong by touting attorneys’ subject-matter expertise and the firm’s success stories. Feature case studies and thought-leadership pieces highlighting valuable skills and experience on the firm’s website and social media channels, and in industry outlets.

  2. Craft client-facing attorney bios. As we have written elsewhere, 78% of in-house counsel rely on attorney bios when hiring outside counsel. Do your firm’s capture the full range of attorneys’ skills? Are recent matters, awards and accolades up to date? And, importantly, is that material framed in terms of what’s valuable to clients? How about individual LinkedIn pages? When attorneys are active there — engaging in conversations and sharing articles relevant to the industries they serve — their visibility and credibility go way up.

  3. Celebrate wins. Prominently feature client testimonials to demonstrate the firm’s impact and emphasize results delivered to clients. Display credible awards and rankings on the firm’s website and across social media channels. Make a practice to regularly submit accolades to regional business outlets’ “movers and shakers” column to further broaden the reach.

  4. Be prepared to pitch. Ensure that firm leaders and associates alike are comfortable delivering pitches — and that they thoroughly understand potential corporate clients’ priorities and needs. Does your firm have a playbook for preparing associates to pitch? How clear is the firm’s messaging? Consider training and mentorship programs to help everyone at the firm perfect their pitch.

Effective framing and strategic, diligent communications can help minority-owned firms effectively tell their stories — and win new business.