Most of us didn’t have any law school training about business development. (Fortunately for today’s students, that’s starting to change.) Law school classes tended to assume that the clients would just be there and that being a good lawyer is all that’s necessary to build a book of business. I’m not convinced that was ever true, but it’s certainly not the case in the post-recession legal economy.
But wouldn’t it be nice if you could just stay in your office, serve your clients, and still have a great practice? Lawyers who are reluctant to market may dread the thought of trying to land new business. You may have absorbed the idea that there’s a special breed of practitioner who can be a rainmaker, and others are destined to struggle. And if you’re worried about appearing to be too “salesy,” you may take on lots of activity with little to show for it. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably a reluctant rainmaker.
Here’s the good news: you can develop a sustainable book of business and still feel good when you look yourself in the mirror. Here’s how to start. Continue Reading
When you recognize a problem that a client is facing and you offer help, you create real value for your client. I’ve written previously about how an offhand conversation with my contractor Oldrich resulted in my purchasing property in Wyoming with his help. Making that purchase realized a long-term dream for me, and it created additional work for Oldrich and his team. Talk about a win/win, right?
In that instance, I identified the need, though I didn’t expect Oldrich to meet it. I was just asking a simple question that I hoped might take me to the next step. I was delighted when asking that question gave me not just information but real help. Oldrich created real professional value for me. Continue Reading
In the fall of 2013, I offered a webinar titled Conquer Procrastination!
How to Manage Your Time to Build a Profitable Practice and a Rich Personal Life. It turned out to be one of my most popular offerings yet. I walked through the five root causes of procrastination and what you can do to counteract each of those causes. After all, no matter how good a solution may be, if it isn’t a solution for the problem you’re experiencing, it won’t help.
How comfortable are you with the business of practicing law? Law is a profession that must operate as a business, and failing to act accordingly will eventually sink a practice, whether solo or a large firm. Lawyers often come to me because they realize they don’t know how to market their services so that the right potential clients can find them. Small firm lawyers also struggle with how to charge clients (especially with today’s emphasis on alternative fees) and other backend business. These lawyers often acknowledge that they’ve known they needed to take on business development activity, for example, but that they’ve put it off until they have no choice. Continue Reading
Have you ever had one of those nights, when you doze off only to be jolted awake with worry about something you need to do? Or caught yourself thinking “as soon as I get back to the office, I’ll send that email to the client,” only to realize hours later that you didn’t do it?
When you have a lot going on, things tend to get dropped or otherwise fouled up. Especially if you’re worried about something or you’re facing a difficult decision, your thoughts may be agitated by the “noise” of life. To-do items blend with ideas and interruptions into one big fog of mental chaos. Continue Reading
While I was exploring the ‘net last week to get additional input to my “what is client service… really?” inquiry, I ran across a nice article titled, “How to Deliver Exceptional Client Service.” Written from the perspective of a web agency, the article starts with the bold-but-obvious thesis that just doing what the client hired you to do isn’t exceptional, nor will it set you apart from your competitors. Consider this:
“You are hired to design and develop a new website for a retail client. The client loves the design, and the pages you develop use the latest in HTML5, CSS3 and responsive design, resulting in a website that works wonderfully across browsers and devices. The e-commerce features of the new website help the client significantly increase their online sales, and the entire project is delivered on time and on budget. Now, is this “exceptional” client service? I don’t think it is.” Continue Reading
Nearly 10 years ago now, David Maister (a now-retired advisor to professional services firms) wrote a brilliant article distinguishing the relational and transactional views of client relations. Here’s the crux of Maister’s argument:
In The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2000), my coauthors and I pointed out that building trusting relationships with clients leads to many benefits: less fee resistance, more future work, more referrals to new clients, and more effective and harmonious work relationships with the clients.
However, many people have built their past success on having a transactional view of their clients, not a relationship one, and it is not clear that they really want to change. Stated bluntly, professionals say that they want the benefits of romance, yet they still act in ways that suggest that what they are really interested in is a one-night stand.
. . . Continue Reading
A reader recently sent in a question following this article about finding ways to stand out from other practitioners in your field. After outlining several potential points of differentiation, this general litigator asked, “I just can’t figure out how to make myself stand out in a town with thousands of attorneys. I write, I speak, I’m involved – but I am not really generating any traction. How do I choose the right way to differentiate myself from everybody else?”
Distinctions come to be in one of three ways:
- By virtue of the practice area, such as Hatch-Waxman Act work or doing special needs trusts.
- Due to some particular experience or skill developed in the past, such as a patent licensing lawyer who has a background in tax issues and can therefore address at least some tax issues without having to resort to a tax lawyer.
- As the result of experience gained over time in one or two specific subcategories of a practice — which is what you describe with the concentrations you mentioned and (to a lesser degree) the classes you’ve taught as an adjunct professor. Continue Reading
When you aren’t achieving the results you want to see from your business development activity, you almost certainly have one of three problems. Identify the problem, make a thoughtful shift, and you will likely see your results change. (The difficulty, of course, is in knowing what change to make, but that’s another topic for another day.)
So, what are the three problems?
- Not enough quality potential clients (directly or by referral). You may not be having enough conversations that lead to a “getting the business” conversations, or you may be having plenty of conversations, but with the wrong people. For instance, if you’re having numerous business conversations that don’t intersect with your area of practice, you have a “leads” problem. (Unless, that is, those conversations lead to your bringing business to a colleague and getting an origination credit even though you personally aren’t doing the work.)
- Not enough sales conversations, or not being able to close the sale. Your connections may stall short of an opportunity to discuss a specific legal problem that your prospective client has and to offer your services, or you may find that you’re unable actually to land the work. You won’t be able to grow a sizeable or a stable book of business until you solve a sales-related problem. Continue Reading
Have you ever found yourself wondering whether to pursue one or another course of action for business development purposes? Absent a crystal ball, unfortunately, it’s often difficult to know in advance what will get you the maximum reward. But if you track your results, you’ll be able to use the simplest system ever. Here’s how.
- Keep a record of your activities. You can make this simple or quite complex, but you’ll probably find simple to be more actionable. The simplest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with spaces for date, activity, results, next step, and decision. Every time you complete an activity, note it.
- As you begin to see results (or the lack thereof), update your spreadsheet. Many activities will get immediate results of one form or another (inviting a contact to lunch, for instance), but some may have a longer gap between action and result (actually having lunch with that contact and waiting to see whether you get work, introductions, or some other next step as a result). Schedule a monthly review to keep track of those longer-term results. Continue Reading
All lawyers in any given practice area are a dime a dozen, right? Think about your own area. Who stands out in your mind? It’s likely (assuming you’ve been in practice for a while) that you can identify at least a few lawyers who catch attention. Maybe it’s the divorce lawyer who’s known for high-profile divorces. Perhaps it’s the patent lawyer who’s created a curriculum to educate her clients on what to expect in the patenting process and what to be doing to maximize the chances of business success. Or it could be the litigator who’s known for baiting witnesses so effectively that fireworks always erupt.
Every lawyer has some skill, experience, attribute, or approach that distinguishes him or her from others. Those distinguishing factors demonstrate to your potential clients what makes you different and why they should hire you. Equally importantly, they also pave the way for you to market yourself in fresh ways. Continue Reading