The Importance Of Being First & Magellan’s Lesson To Law Firms

Ferdinand Magellan was the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe. During his expedition from 1519–1522, Magellan sailed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Magellan, named in his honor.

Magellan was the first European to discover the Magellanic Penguin and Magellanic Woodpecker. He was the first to take note of Magellanic clouds (now known to be dwarf galaxies).

Later, astronomers honored the seaman’s other skyward discoveries by naming twin lunar craters Magelhaens and Magelhaens A.

The second European to circumnavigate the globe was Sir Francis Drake. Who, other than earning the pejorative name El Draque by the Spaniards, left no other lasting legacy than piracy.

See, sometimes being first means everything.

In the modern world, being first in business also leads to a lasting legacy. Scotch tape, Kleenex, Xerox, Slinky, the names of these brands are synonymous with their function. Read Forbes’ article “The Importance of Being First,” and you’ll find that this is no accident.

A company’s reputation—as often reflected through its brand name—is the key to attracting new clients and boosting your firm’s bottom line. So, to corner the market on your niche legal service, think about what your law firm can do to be first.

Be the first in a legal niche.

Although a recession increase unemployment, it also increases opportunities. Think about what niche technological or policy areas your law firm can reach.

For example, the new patent law provides an opportunity for law firms to become experts in their field.  Why should this client hire you? Because your firm knows the most about what changes in patent law means for corporate clients—from large engineering business to the small entrepreneur.

Be the first in a technical expertise.

Technology provides firm with a competitive edge. Electronic filing and the latest legal software make your firm most efficient at what it does. That translates into lower billable hours for the client.

It’s not enough to purchase the newest technology, make sure your employees know how to implement it their daily tasks. Prove to your clients why your firm is the most productive, and how technology translates into better strategies, more filtered information, and higher rates of courtroom wins.

Be the first in alternative fee arrangements.

Most firms advertise alternative fee arrangements, but few actually employee them. Customize your services and your service fees to clients.

Be the first to offer contingency fees on all types of cases for all types of clients. Differentiate your firm by being the first to use creative billing methods that benefit the client and boosts your visibility in the region.

When clients need flexibility in fees, aim to be the first name that comes to mind.

Be the first in employee services.

Internally, differentiate your firm to attract employees. Whether it’s flexible schedules, paternal/maternal leave policy, or faster partnership tracks, decide what sets apart your firm from the rest.

Then, make sure you communicate this competitive advantage to potential candidates. You’d be surprised at how seemingly small but undeniably unique benefits for employees will attract the market’s best candidates.

Magellan gets credit for being the first to circumnavigate the globe even though technically, technically he didn’t complete the journey. In a way, Magellan receives credit for being the first simply because of the exploration effort he initiated.

In the end, sometimes just the attempt to be first gives way to the position.



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