It’s never been more important to stand out from your peers in this crowded, saturated market. Becoming totally immersed in your clients and prospects by learning as much as you can about them is one way to separate the good lawyers from the great lawyers.

This requires time and effort by asking smart questions and conducting thorough research (for example, by setting up free Google alerts on your top clients/prospects so that you are informed about important news about them, and using social media tools such as LinkedIn to learn about job moves and updates of your important connections). Today, most people just don’t send emails announcing their new positions anymore – it’s now up to you to do research.

Being aware of major developments and news affecting your clients’ organizations enables you to better anticipate their needs and it shows that you care. In this case, knowledge is power.

So how do you put this into practice? 

Invest in your clients in a way that enables you to showcase what you do best and what you bring to the table for them. For example, take the time to research the company of one of your most important clients. Utilize all of the resources that you have to help you do this – your marketing team is key for this. Then do some serious marketing due diligence to learn their business inside and out. Your firm likely has lots of competitive intelligence information at the ready should you need it -this information will enable you to be more “client intelligent.” What challenges and opportunities are they facing? With the information you have gathered, put together an outline with bulleted action items on how you can help them with both of these.

When you feel ready, schedule an in-person check-in meeting or lunch (ask your client what they prefer) to discuss what they’re working on, what’s keeping them up at night, the general business landscape in their industry (chime in on this with insights from  the research that you did), where it’s going and address any thorny issues they are currently facing.

Your most important job is to listen closely (think of the 80/20 percent rule – let them talk for 80 percent of the time while you listen). Share what you learned about the company during your research and based on what they say, provide insight on how you can help them achieve their business goals (using the outline and action items you prepared) and how you might be able to help them solve any thorny issues with which they are grappling. Your higher purpose with all of this is to convey that you are there to assist them and make them look good.

At the end of the day, clients want to hire lawyers who make them feel good about themselves and make them look good internally and externally. This type of dedicated and proactive client service will better enable you to help the client pursue their goals and has the added benefit of elevating your position with them as a business advisor. This is the true definition of a partner.