The fight to win legal clients has never been more fierce than it is today, with the drastic increase in the number of law firms, disruptive new business and pricing models, and changing expectations of clients.

Today, the biggest firms shell out tens of thousands of dollars per pitch presentation - that includes pitching to existing clients for new work. When one client can bring in over $1 million in fees, it’s worth the investment.

But the competition is increasing, and pressures to streamline the pitch creation process internally as well as meeting clients’ expectations - not just in terms of the contents of the pitch but also the format - have increased too.

The focus has shifted from high volume of clients to high value clients, and investing in a pitch is crucial to winning this type of work.

For high value, strategic prospects, or where there’s opportunity for revenue growth with an existing client, the standard pitching methods just won’t do anymore, and there is an alternative: the pitch portal.

The changing pitch

Those of us that have experienced the legal pitch process some time in the last decade will be familiar with how it goes.

Over the course of a couple of days, the business development and marketing team have a mad rush to gather the relevant materials with input from across the business and across jurisdictions, into a single large pitch document.

Pitch documents can be up to 80 pages long, and a large proportion of this information is boilerplate and indistinguishable from the pitch documents competitor firms provide. The rest is specifically created for that pitch by various people in the firm.

This document is brought to the pitch meeting, run through in a presentation, and given to the prospect to take away and review, usually in hard copy. Prospects must sift through to find the information that is specific to them and allows them to evaluate the pitch and the firm.

Finally, after years of the same method the pitch process is finally beginning to change.

While some firms have made the switch away from hard copy pitch documents and PowerPoint presentations towards iPads with pre-loaded content, or others have started using proposal building software to simplify the process of collating information.

While this has certainly helped improve the pitch process in terms of reducing paper use and marginally improving the efficiency of the process, it hasn’t done a lot to help law firms solve the fundamental challenges of forming a pitch, or modernising and differentiate themselves from other firms using the same pitching techniques.

While efficiency is always a key goal of any change in any business, modernisation is something that law firms desperately need. For several years, law firms have been lagging behind other industries in terms of technology, and clients have begun to expect a certain level of professionalism and modernisation from service providers.

Clients today often steer the pitch process, providing their own templates and frameworks for submission. But as well as this, what a pitching law firm can offer in terms of technology - both at the point of pitch and as part of the legal service - is an increasing differentiator.

Shaking up pitch delivery

It’s not just the pitch-making technology that requires a shake up - it’s the delivery of the pitch itself. No matter how well made a pitch document is, it’s ultimately still a static collection of data that requires the client to search through and find the relevant information.

Why not extend the principles of client knowledge portals to the pitching stage? For high value, strategic accounts, firms can create a pitch portal that contains dynamic versions of the components included in a pitch document.

Here are some of ways in which using a client portal will improve your pitch for high value prospects:

1. Bring the client experience into the pitch process

Rather than viewing the pitch process as a document and a presentation, treat your prospects as if they are clients from the very first moment you interact with them.

Provide them with the same high quality digital experience that your clients receive, and give them a taster of what working with you will be like - modern, efficient, and collaborative.

2. Build your pitch quicker with collated information that is searchable

By using your content hub to create your pitch portal, your BD team can easily pull together a pitch by simply searching existing content and pulling content together into one pitch channel.

Content can be drafted using collaboration tools that allow different contributors across jurisdictions and business areas to work together seamlessly. Storing this information in one shared space allows you to have quick access to any resources that could have relevance to your pitch.

3. Combine different content types into the pitch portal

You’re not restricted by what information fits on a page or a PowerPoint document. Create rich multimedia pitches by combining videos, interactive guides, articles, press items, and visuals into your pitch portal.

Not only does this make the pitch presentation stand out, but also encourages prospects to engage with content in the pitch portal pre- and post-pitch, during their evaluation process and provides a huge differentiator.

You can even show examples of client portals that prospects would get access to if they became a client, so they can get a stronger idea of what added value they will receive from your firm.

4. Give prospects access the portal before the pitch, and afterwards

You can allow prospects to access the pitch portal in advance of the pitch meeting, and give them access to the information they need to review, without having to send a large document to them.

This means that the relevant people at the prospect firm can get a head start on reviewing the pitch, and can make the pitch meeting itself more valuable by focussing on the areas most relevant to the prospect.

5. Prospects can navigate freely and read as much or as little as interests them

By providing prospects with access to the content hub, you enable them to explore information at their own pace. You can set permissions to ensure they don’t access any confidential or premium information, but give them an insight into your firm’s expertise.

By encouraging prospects to engage with your firm’s content prior to becoming a client, you’re allowing them to get a feel for the digital experience they will receive once they do become a client, and the expertise they will receive from you.

6. Use the pitch portal during the pitch meeting to provide focus

By giving prospects access to the portal before the pitch meeting, they have time to look through the relevant resources, statement of work and contract before the meeting.

That means that during the meeting itself, time can be spent answering specific questions relating to the documentation the prospect has already reviewed, rather than giving an introduction to it, and on questions that have been raised after looking through the portal.

7. During the pitch meeting, the pitching team aren’t restricted by what’s in the document

Traditionally, pitch meetings are based around the material included in the pitch document, such as detailing key people in the firm, running through tombstones for similar work, and policies that are relevant to the prospects.

However, if a prospect asks a question not covered in the pitch document, the pitch team can’t show examples to back up their response. Working with a pitch portal, the pitch team can access all the relevant material and share it during the pitch.

8. Prospects (and your team) can access the portal on mobile

A crucial differentiator of pitch portals is the fact that they can be accessed on all devices, and on the go. Rather than a static pitch file, which is too large to even be emailed, or worse: hardcopy, the entire BD and pitch team and anybody involved with building the pitch can access it on the go.

This is the same for prospects too, who are able to review information in the pitch portal before and after the pitch from their mobile or tablet, as well as desktop.

9. Prospects can navigate straight to the information that is relevant to them

Different people involved with the pitch from the prospect side will be interested in different elements of the pitch. For instance, one person may only be interested previous deals your firm has done, while another may be interested in the expertise of your lawyers.

Rather than flicking through a long document to find the information that is relevant to them, they can each navigate directly to this area of the pitch portal and find out this information straight away.

10. When the prospect becomes a client, the pitch portal transforms into their client knowledge portal

No additional onboarding or setup is required to get your new client using their knowledge portal. When you’ve been providing the digital experience from day one, your clients will understand how to use the portal, and will already be used to engaging with you using it.

This not only simplifies the onboarding process for your firm, but also makes the transition easier for your client, and you can start providing legal services much sooner without the usual period of familiarisation.

Using a pitch portal in this way allows you to truly bring your high value prospects into the digital client journey from day one.

By introducing them to your content portal at prospect stage, and shifting that channel to their personalised knowledge portal as soon as they become a client, they maintain access to the original pitch materials, but also gain access to more material and communication relevant to their case and areas of interest in the same space.

This is a massive benefit to your client, as they are used to using one platform and don’t have to change the way they engage with you from being a prospect to a client.

When they become a client, all their transactions and matter reporting is available to access immediately within the digital environment, instead of having to wait for it to be set up.

This also benefits your firm, by allowing you simplify your tech stack using the same platform throughout the client journey from winning business to retaining and upscaling existing accounts by using it as part of your key account programme.

You can use your portal to provide premium add-on digital products to your key accounts, by simply giving them access to these products within the same client portal they’re used to using.

We'll go into more detail about how to use client portals for key account programmes in a future post, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.

Strategically pitch for key clients

By digitising and shaking up the pitch process and providing added value from the very start of the pitch process, you gain the benefit of building a digital client journey that allows you to draw your clients from prospect to key account.

It’s key to remember that by focussing on improving the efficiency, delivery and accessibility of your pitch in the first instance, you influence not only your firm’s ability to win the work, but also retain and up sell that account much later down the line.

This will help you on your way to establishing a digital key account programme that allows you to move your accounts through the client journey, retain them, and sell them premium value services.