An article in The Lawyer (6th July) described how Sainsbury’s asked its 11 panel law firms to each invite one of their other clients along to pitch their products, Dragon’s Den style, to Sainsbury’s. The winner, by the way, was Dentons with an Internet based parts company called e-spares.

A fundamental element of any client relationship programme is about understanding the nature of your client’s business sufficiently so that you can seek out and be alert to ways in which you can add value which is beyond the specific brief of your professional role. Even if it doesn’t provide any short term gains for the professional firm but recognising that if you put a deal in front of a client then the likelihood is that any professional work likely to be required – licensing or distribution contracts, merger due diligence, real estate portfolio work etc – is likely to come your way.

The property industry knows this well – any investment agent worth his or her salt knows that you have to pitch in suitable investment opportunities if you want any chance of being asked to do the agency and professional work. Accountants are pretty savvy about this too – particularly in the corporate finance teams.

So why has it taken law firms so long to find this out? The tender documents of just about all major corporates ask law firms the question “How will you add value?” – and most law firms will talk about free legal updates, free seminars or maybe even a dedicated extranet. Imagine how differentiating and persuasive it would be if you could provide a list of real revenue and profit generating ideas that you have pitched into similar companies?