Prospecting for Clients

Chances are this is how you’re networking, collecting business cards that will remain in your pocket until you wear that jacket again. Instead, you could be building relationships that really matter?

Let me ask you. Do you look at an event on your calendar and think… I would give my right arm to just go home rather than this event? I hate smiling and acting as though I’m interested in what anyone is saying. Actually I don’t even like those people. Then you snap out of it. You grab a cup of coffee that gives you a little jolt and vow… I’m going and I will be the most charming person in the room!

Tell me which YOU really shows up at that event? Chances are its someone in between. And I guarantee you that whomever you meet recognizes the insincerity, forced smile and faked interest. I’m telling you now, instead go home because the event will be a big waste of time… yours and everyone you meet.

There is a better way.

Instead go home and think about what you really want in your practice. Who is your ideal client? Where do they go? What is important to them? How could you help them? What circles would you like to be a part of? NOW… how can you act on the answers to these questions? This process is strategic and it’s the foundation to building relationships that matter.

How can you build trust with these new people? There is one question that Inc. Magazine writer John Hall asserts will be a game changer.

How can I be helpful to you?

Yes, it’s a simple question that could change the trajectory of your practice and your life. Hall points out:

  • It allows you to help others better.
  • It cuts through any potential awkwardness of a new relationship.
  • It enables you to be proactive.

Try it! You will be building relationships that matter, and that IS a game changer!

More than 10 years ago I started talking about:

I now know that those posts were a “touch” premature. I’m not so sure they still are. I can confidently state that the “traditional” hourly billing is dead. According to the “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thompson’s Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in many firms, AFAs (only 15-20% of revenues) and  budget-based pricing “combined may well account for 80-90 percent of all revenues.”

The “widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters” over the past decade is the reason, according to the report. While firms may still keep track of their time on a billable hour basis, be assured that it is a different animal when it comes to invoices sent out. Debra Cassens Weiss’s take on the topic can be seen online at ABA Journal and  is entitled “Billable hour pricing is effectively dead because of budget caps, report says”.

After discussing other significant changes to the legal profession over the past decade, the report concludes that “those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them.” A good start would be to read the entire 17-page report.

This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.

In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys.  Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career.  They are not just year-specific.

Second Year

  • Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
  • Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
  • Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
  • Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.

Third Year

  • Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
  • Become more proactive within your network;
  • Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
  • Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
  • Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
  • Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.

Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond

  • Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
  • Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
  • Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
  • Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
  • Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
  • Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
  • Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
  • Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).

“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman.  I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book.  You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.


P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.

Yes and no. Or maybe. Currently, my personal recommendation is to chill out, and devote your vacation time to family and friends. Lawyers need to unwind, to prevent burnout. But most of all they need to spend quality time with those they love.

Having said that, it isn’t criminal or a mortal sin to get in a little business development when a situation presents itself. I’ve talked about this before in a blog post I wrote in 2014.

Today I ran across a post by The BTI Consulting Group that contained a couple of pages from their latest book The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service. It states that the “only time inaction is good… is when you’re on vacation.”


HOWEVER, the main message from the ABCs of Client Service is, when it comes to client service, “Inaction speaks much louder than words.” Clients will remember “acts of omission or process more than actions taken.”

So, do take time off and enjoy your vacation with family and friends this summer. Treat yourself to some “inaction” time. BUT, don’t be afraid to do a little business development (networking or whatever), if the opportunity presents itself. The important thing is to keep in mind, when you are back at work, the danger of inaction when it comes to client service.


Put another way, how a lawyer services his/her client can be the most important factor in terms of ongoing client relationships. Most clients place a very high value on quality legal services. I am not referring here to the outcome of a legal matter, although that certainly is important. But considering how many talented lawyers are out there, it often comes down to how good a lawyer’s reputation is for providing good service. A lawyer with a reputation for poor service often has poor people skills.

Over the years, there have been many in-house counsel panels at various legal marketing conferences. They’re usually well-attended because lawyers want to know what their clients and potential clients are saying about the services provided by law firms.

For years we have heard that clients want:

  • understanding of their business;
  • better communications;
  • no surprises, especially when it comes to budgets;
  • prompt billing;
  • greater value, including customized CLE;
  • current technology, especially regarding data security.

A post this week on Attorney at Work by Susan Kostal talks about what she heard from such a panel at a recent conference. She suggests lawyers “use soft skills” to become a favorite of in-house counsel. They include:

  • learn what keeps them up at night;
  • learn about their personal life (as appropriate);
  • ask about their work routine;
  • asked what their preferred manner/format for receiving updates (memo, email, telephone, etc.); and
  • have a sense of humor.

I question how soft they really are, since I believe they are vital for lawyers in today’s competitive marketplace.  In many cases they are as important as how smart the lawyer is.



According to a survey by The BTI Consulting Group, only 40.1% of clients “recommend their primary law firm to a peer.” As bad as that statistic is, the good news is that it is better by almost 7% over the previous year, and better slightly than five years ago.  According to the survey it “still leaves more than half of all clients wanting.”

As I, and many others have consistently stated, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust.  Not only as to the quality of the legal product, but how the services are provided.  And referrals from satisfied clients is the “express lane” to more work and new business.

So, what should you do?  A few recommendations include:

  • Seek feedback (No. 3 on my list of Top Ten Marketing Tips)
  • Set goals that match those of the client
  • Invest in understanding the client’s business (a failing I’ve heard from clients over the years)
  • Don’t wait for the client to ask about succession plans
  • Educate the clients “in new, high-value topics (off the clock I would add)

The good news is that more and more firms, according to BTI, are doing a better job of systematically adopting practices to “improve client service on a continuing basis.”

Are you and your firm doing the same?


Networking is no less dreaded by many lawyers than it has always been. But, it doesn’t have to be.  Hopefully, a few of my 40-plus posts on this blog about networking over the past 11 years will be useful. A few of which I have highlighted below.  They may prove of interest to those who may not have seen them previously.

Mike O’Horo has a recent post on Attorney at Work that mentions a couple of networking tips, one I hadn’t thought about or covered before.

  • It concerns the awkwardness of the situation where you are not sure whether you’ve met a person before or have but forgotten their name. His suggestion: “Hi Denise, nice to see you.”  Thus, avoiding the risk of  “… nice to meet you” (when you already have) or “… nice seeing you again” (when you haven’t);
  • Another suggestion involves the buddy system. Work with a “partner” to help each other in situations where you’re not sure, or need help with an introduction; and
  • Name tag game. Put it on your handshaking side or, if on a lanyard, up high enough to be seen to avoid stares in the general area of the belly button. For more about name tags check out Scott Ginsburg, the Nametag Guy, if you question the importance of such things.

A few of my networking posts include: (my apologies for any broken links)

Basic Networking Tips

Do you feel uncomfortable networking? Maybe better questions include: Do you enjoy helping friends and acquaintances? Are you a good listener? Do you like to party?? Then, you may be better at networking than you think. So, maybe it is the word “networking” that is the culprit. Think of it as enjoying yourself at events….Continue Reading

7 Ideas To Improve Your Networking

Effective networking is more important as the legal marketplace becomes more competitive. A lot of lawyers do not embrace networking and wish they didn’t have to do it. It is not why we went to law school after all. Notwithstanding one’s aversion to networking, it is necessary! So you might as well make networking work…Continue Reading

Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 9 – Networking With Super-Connectors

I recently posted a couple of items on networking, one about normal encounters during your daily routines and the other which required more focused activity. A recent post on’s blog highlighted an excerpt from a chapter of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone which is called “Connecting with the Connectors”; that is, those who…Continue Reading

Networking Requires Getting Off Your Duff!

Social media is obviously one way to network these days, and it can work. But, it is not as effective as face-to-face events with clients, referral sources and prospects. So, it’s time to get up from your desk, and get out and about. That is the theme of an article on Attorney at Work by…Continue Reading

P.S. Heaven forbid, if you want to read more of the 40 or so networking posts, go here.

I’m no Chicken Little, but I do have a sinking feeling about our profession. In my more than four decades as a lawyer, I have seen huge changes, not the least of which include:

  • Too many lawyers, too few jobs relatively speaking
  • accountants practicing tax law;
  • financial advisors drafting estate plans, wills and trusts;
  • unhappy and rebellious clients;
  • offshore research and drafting;
  • software created legal documents (e.g., LegalZoom);
  • realization rates woefully low;
  • a significant drop in the percentage of grads getting legal jobs within nine months;
  • …and so on.

I don’t know many lawyers who would realistically disagree that the profession is in a bunch of hurt. I have told friends who have a child or grandchild considering law school, to forget it. I don’t know whether that makes me a traitor to our guild or not. I realize the old-timers and those charging $900 an hour (I was advised that someone was bragging recently that he charges $1500 an hour) see no problem.  How long do you think clients are going to put up with that nonsense?  But, this message is not for those lawyers anyway.

Rather it’s for the much younger members of the bar, who dream (and expect) to reach that zenith. They might, but the vast majority won’t even come close. In fact, if Richard and Daniel Susskind, who co-authored The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Humans are right, there will be “technology unemployment” in the professions (not just law, but architecture, medical, financial professions as well) and there will eventually be less need for lawyers.

Hogwash, you say?  Listen to their podcast about the book hosted by Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson on LegalTalkNetwork.  Unfortunately, 90% of lawyers won’t because it is slightly over 40 minutes in length. There is that billable hour demand after all.  I’m glad I spent the time, however.

Another recent article that cites the Susskind’s book is “The End of Lawyers, Period” by D. Casey Flaherty on   ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels under the New Normal. It contains links to some contrarian views, but also citing the “2015 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transitions Survey” points out that “Only 20 percent (of those responding stated)… that computers will never replace human practitioners.”

If you think technology can NEVER replace people, think about all the artificial intelligence already out there; such as, while doing a query on the Internet, the rest of your search term pops up before you’ve typed half of it.  Also, remember Deep Blue, the chess challenge that beat Garry Kasparov in 1997.  What is to prevent some Silicon Valley genius developing an algorithm using a database of gazillions of reported cases that will answer most, if not the majority, of legal issues down the road.  Will lawyers become extinct? Surely not, but for certain the need will be for less as technology advances.

My message is really directed at younger lawyers and future grads still in law school.  And it is: Learn quickly how to market your services and develop business in order to survive in today’s new normal and build a nest egg to temporary outwit that (technology) Foxy Loxy that Chicken Little and friends failed to. Maybe the sky won’t fall on your head, but a whole lot of acorns are going to give you a massive headache before your career is over, IMHO.

It’s called publicity. When you or your firm gets mentioned in the media, and better if you are quoted, it’s instant credibility. And it’s FREE (unless you hire a PR agency to help)

Regular advertising is less effective IMHO because you are writing the copy and, of course, it is self-serving. Further it costs you money. When someone else says things about you and hopefully quotes you, it is more likely to be believed.

We all believe what we read in the newspaper or magazine, right?  “If I read it, it must be true” is what Larry Smith and Richard Levick opined (somewhat facetiously I’m sure) in a meditation contained in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals. For more on that meditation look at my post “Publicity vs. Advertising” for the full quote, and for more about the difference between the two.

Actually, we all know better, but there certainly is more credibility given to what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. You may ask, how do I get this here free “advertising”? Well, you need to befriend a reporter or editor, as I suggest in my “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 8 – Take a Reporter to Lunch.” It’s a start and my post gives some suggestions and cautions on how to go about building a relationship with a reporter.

So, it is better if you spend your time talking to reporters and editors rather than those in the business who sell advertising. Accordingly it’s a good idea to get to know and develop relationships with reporters and editors. Your time and (lunch) money will be better spent.

When it comes to marketing and business development, plan to lose. HUH, you may say.

Stay with me.

Hope to win, but don’t assume that you will get the next engagement – either from an existing client or from a prospect. With the competitive nature of our industry (yes, law services is an industry, despite those who say NO, it’s a PROFESSION – Yeah right), things are changing rapidly. Clients are dissatisfied, angry with the cost of legal services and the value of those services. So, just because your client appears to be happy with your firm today, doesn’t mean they will be satisfied tomorrow.

Today’s meditation from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick points out the dangers of not anticipating the possibility of change:

“The captain of the Titanic had such a great safety record that when the great ship struck an iceberg, precious hours were lost because the possibility of sinking was so far beyond his experience. Yesterday’s success is always a trap when conditions change. And they always change.”

Don’t let precious time pass before you and your firm wake up to today’s realities. Awake every day with the thought of making your clients’ experience even better. It is not a foregone conclusion you will succeed, but you sure as heck better give it your all. Because things change and clients are becoming more demanding. Overconfidence and the lack of client-centric thinking could eventually sink your firm.