I have actually answered this question in several previous blog posts, but I found support for my answer last week.

This weekend, I am hosting a group of Million Dollar lawyers. Our time together will be spent brainstorming what the lawyers have done to get to this point, what the lawyers are doing to take it to the next level and a variety of other interesting topics.

I have been doing research to prepare myself for facilitating a group of highly motivated, wildly successful lawyers. In my research on trends, I came across this Fordham Law Review Article: TEAM OF RIVALS? TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF THE CORPORATE ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP by David B. Wilkins. The lengthy article has many interesting points. Here is the one that supported the advice I have been sharing in my blog posts:

With respect to this higher-value work, cost is no longer the dominant factor. Instead, general counsels are looking for firms that will provide high quality service. But companies mean something different by “quality service” than most commentators—and most outside lawyers—typically think. A recent survey by BTI Consulting Group drives the point home. When asked what they value most in an outside firm, the overwhelming plurality of general counsel responded “client focus.” Not surprisingly, BTI found that this is what virtually every law firm believes that they are providing. But when the consultants asked clients and law firms what they meant by “client focus,” they received very different answers. Twenty-one percent of GCs, again the overwhelming plurality, responded that “client focus” means “understanding our business.”

I wrote about this in Vital Key to Success: Get to Know Your Client’s Business. I have also shared with you that more often than not, the differentiating factor that enabled me to get hired was my understanding of contractors’ business and their work. I studied engineering books and articles to learn how complicated construction projects were designed and constructed. I studied construction management and accounting. I went to my clients’ business meetings and safety meetings. I read the same periodicals on construction that my clients read. I placed associates who worked for me in the offices and on the construction projects my clients were building.

If you do only one thing in 2012, create a plan to understand your clients’ business.