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Industry Alignment

Clients care about their industry, not your practice. 

When clients say, “Know my business,” they mean “Know my industry.”

Industry Alignment is the hallmark of law firms firms and legal service providers who are recognized as leaders in their chosen markets.

This is because organizing by industry orientation signals business moxie while practice organization enables service breadth. The alignment of industry and practice strengthens cross-serving and client strategy. This is because industry orientation is outward and market-facing while practice organization is an internal organization structure.

I help practice-oriented law firms and legal service providers align their offerings by industry to create client cross-serving opportunities, and bolster client retention. This is accomplished by structuring and/or building industry teams and interweaving them with practice groups. The result is the development of a combined industry- and practice-specific go-to-market plan.

Why Industry Teams are Attractive

Businesses worldwide organize by industry. Business-astute law firms and legal service providers who face the market by industry act like a beacon attracting clients who recognize that sector awareness, knowledge and depth trumps the inward-facing organization of traditionally structured legal practices.

Alignment by industry also provides clear direction for business development efforts by way of prospective client targeting, and makes it easier to evaluate market opportunities and justify spending decisions.

Industries position as verticals while practices organize as horizontals. There is a place for both within most law firms and legal service providers: industry teams tend to be small and nimble with proven hands-on sector expertise while practice groups provide breadth, range and ballast.

It is usual that industry and practice alignment are part of a client strategy management mandate that may include key client teams, client interviews and marketing plans.  

The Value of Industry Verticals

Every law firm and legal service provider has industry strengths that are as unique as a fingerprint, and provide market differentiation.

The key to mapping sector strengths is to use data sourced from a law firm or legal service provider’s client roster. Client-originating, industry-qualifying hard data provides non-arguable evidence for tangible sector strength identification rather than what can often happen — hatching pseudo sectors to accommodate agendas.

Shifting toward industry alignment need not be an all-or-nothing proposition, and any firm can do it because it’s scalable. That’s why it’s best to start with a small selection of industries and transition from there.

Creating an Industry Team

In 2004, I helped a boutique law firm with a deep automotive client roster build an industry team. A key criterion for team selection was direct experience working for a vehicle maker or automotive parts manufacturer. This ensured that each team member understood and spoke the language of the sector, which removes the client/provider barrier and helps develop trust. From there, the process involved tactics that included marketing to the automotive sector and shortly thereafter, business development began. This automotive industry team found early success and flourishes to this day.

Long-term commitment and patience are critical factors to ensure that industry alignment comes to fruition and profitability. And for the development of strong sector-specific teams, taking a data- and business-based approach is a key component to success.

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Heather Suttie 

Legal Market Strategy and Management Consulting

+1 416.964.9607