Whenever I work with mid sized, mid market law firms who are grappling with the idea of getting to grips with their client targeting we invariably hit this question. When is a sector not a sector? When is a group just a group? Or the real doozie - what do you do when a practice area and sector have the same name? I think that, when you add it all up, I have spent several days of my life trying to explain the composition of a Real Estate sector focus as opposed to that of a Real Estate practice. I don't know why but I have found that the concept of an entire industry dedicated to building properties that might need advice other than property law seems an anathema to many lawyers. Heaven forfend that large property companies might have employment issues, pension problems, corporate finance requirements, taxation questions or even fraud or criminal proceedings that would require some legal advice. No, they only want property lawyers to deal with their property management team surely? Really?
But to be fair there are plenty of property, sorry, Real Estate lawyers out there who do get the distinction and there are many other areas where lawyers struggle to understand which services to offer to their clients in order to target them more effectively. High Net Worth Individuals being a case in point. We know they have a lot of money and we know they have a lot of different needs but for some reason most lawyers (and even some PR's) cannot grasp the idea that an individual might want more from their lawyers than just wills, trusts, tax and family advice. Wealth comes with a myriad of problems from delinquent trust fund babies, to stalking and unwanted media attention and trolling. If the wealth is new they may well be naive about who to turn to for what service and this is when than 'trusted adviser' moniker really comes into play.
For that very reason I hold client "persona" sessions with firms to help them delve into who their clients are as individuals and not just who they work for or what they want to do with their money.
Clearly the fundamentals of good client relationship management and indeed building new business has to be based on listening and then reacting to what you hear. If your construction client tells you they are really worried about the effects of Brexit on their mainly Polish work force, will you be offering them a planning partner to talk to or an immigration specialist? Think about it.....