Silicon Valley's Wilson, Sonsoni Takes Nod From Pickle Men and Info Marketers

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I was cruising through some blogs on Friday, when this post from venture capitalist, author and entrepreneur, @GuyKawasaki, caught my eye:

Free Online Term Sheet Generator

If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it, but Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati (WSGR), one of Silicon Valley’s dominant law firms (as in Apple, HP, etc), has created a free, online term sheet generator. This is the site’s description of the tool:

This tool will generate a venture financing term sheet based on your responses to an online questionnaire. It also has an informational component, with basic tutorials and annotations on financing terms. This term sheet generator is a modified version of a tool that we use internally, which comprises one part of a suite of document automation tools that we use to generate start-up and venture financing-related documents.

Why is this so astonishing?

Because, WSGR was literally giving away an online tool that let people create a document that WSGR would commonly charge money to knock out. The question is – why were they doing this?

Deli-owners and pickle purveyors have done this for centuries, “Try a smidge of lobster salad and a half sour, lady, how many you want!”

And, more recently, info-marketers, savvy sales people and business owners have been leveraging this very strategy, giving away courses, ebooks, videos, software and online apps and tools with a high perceived value, similar to the one WSGR is giving away. They all know that by giving away something of value to people who are your likely customers, they’ll accomplish a number of things. They’ll…

  • Prime The Reciprocity Pump – When you give someone something they perceive as being valuable and desirable, you also end up cultivating a desire to, in some way reciprocate. In this example, that increases the likelihood that, if and when if comes time to drop real money on a lawyer, WSGR will likely be first in line.
  • Be There To Provide Fee-Based Follow-up – For those not in the know, a term sheet is generally a very short document summarizing the proposed terms for a deal, often only a page or two. That makes it seem like a pretty easy document to create. Truth is, the document itself is easy to create, but the issues, negotiations and structures that get fed into the document often require a whole lot more work and thought. I know this, because as a hedge fund lawyer in a past life, this is part of what I did. So, a term sheet is only as valuable as the data you put into it. Many people who’ll dive into this tool hoping to save thousands on legal fees will soon discover they really need someone to, at a minimum, answer a few questions along the way. And, again, guess who they’re going to turn to, both for the questions, then for continuing representation.
  • Establish Credibility & Value – This is more of an issue for an unknown/younger business or marketer. WSGR pretty much has this taken care of. Anyone in the biz knows who they are, and they know they’re really good at what they do.

Okay, fine…but law firms?

The real eye-opener here is that law firms are notoriously horrible marketers.

Plus, they’re often terrified of doing anything that could potentially “cheapen” their reputations (let’s not go there, people, remember, I’m still half recovering esq.).

Sure, they’ll give away content in the form of newsletter, briefs and practice-area updates. They’ll have gathering’s and send lawyers to presentations or teach CLEs. But, that’s generally as far as it goes, there’s almost never a serious sales and marketing funnel built around it. At least not one that works all that well.

And, the thought of giving away a service to prospective clients who had plenty of money to pay for it…blasphemy!

This is the first time I’ve seen a law firm go the info-marketer’s distance and create an app that gave away something a client would normally pay for as a lead-generator for bigger income down the road. As a former big-firm lawyer (way, way back) and now entrepreneur and marketer, I have to confess…I’m just gushing with pride.

Now, the question is, will others follow suit?

Or, will they back away and condemn the move as cheapening and ineffective. Either way, there’s a good chance WSGR will end up just like the info-marketers have…laughing all the way to the bank and picking up new paying clients, while the rest of the legal world scrambles to respond to a changing economic landscape by doing more of what they’ve always done (definition of insanity, btw) and expanding their bankruptcy departments.

Now, if I could only get WSGR to bring the rest of the their website up to web 2.0/marketing snuff…

Curious, what do you think?

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1 response

One response to “Silicon Valley's Wilson, Sonsoni Takes Nod From Pickle Men and Info Marketers”

  1. This law firm is a head of the pack and will continue to lead if they try marketing like this. The hard part will be tweaking this model so it does bring paying clients in. This isn’t easy, but that’s what business is all about – finding the right formula.