From the very beginning of this blog, I have urged lawyers to visit their clients (off the clock) at their place of business (also referred to as their “problem space”).  It often results in immediate new business.  It worked for me, and many attorneys I’ve coached over the years said it worked for them.

That is why when I first posted my Top Ten Marketing Tips in 2005, I made it my No. 1 most effective tactic for getting new business.  It still is!  And there is no matter tip I can give as we begin 2017.

Below is a post from April 22, 2015 that could serve as a good place to start reading about doing so, and contains a link to many other posts on the topic over the years:

Visit Clients, Period!

Whenever I get writers block, I like to look at my old standby source of inspiration365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications.

As I have preached, preached, and yes preached some more over the past 10 years, the quickest, fastest, swiftest (okay, okay I know ENOUGH already) way to get new business is to visit your clients off the clock. And fortuitously this week, the marketing meditations for Monday through today deal with that very point. They are:

  • April 20: “Visit all clients. Visit clients across the street. Visit clients around the world.
  • April 21: “Visit clients without an agenda.
  • April 22: “She who visits clients comes back with work.”

That really says it all! If you would like to read more of my posts over the years on this topic, look here for several of them.

So, start planning your visits to KEY clients, at least.

For some lawyers, this is like preaching to the choir and may simply serve as a reminder for them. For others, hopefully, you start visiting your clients ASAP.

This topic relating to marketing for new lawyers has been addressed previously on this blog. Recently, friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has completed a book entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist. Not surprisingly, Fishman has done a great job, and since he sent me an e-book version, I decided to feature his missive in several blog posts.

Let’s address what a new, first year associate should do. [Caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are you not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, this post is for the rest of you young attorneys.

Accordingly, the following are some of Fishman’s suggestions (with my usual comments):

  • First and foremost, “learn to be a great lawyer” and develop “a reputation for providing the highest-quality client service”;
  • Learn as much as possible about your firm and its practices (from its website, newsletters, partners, senior associates, paralegals… and yes, staff);
  • Join social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), but for heaven’s sake don’t waste precious time on it to your detriment, and lack of face time, which is far more valuable;
  • Focus on internal marketing to build your brand within the firm – meeting/lunch with other firm lawyers who can refer work, and help educate you on the practice of law;
  • Build your network, starting with people you already know – classmates (law school, college, and even high school), friends, relatives, etc.; and
  • Set up Google Alerts for your contacts, as well as your name and the firm’s.

There is a lot more in Fishman’s book, and I commend it to you. And stand by for further posts about it.

In today’s competitive marketplace, and with the client scrutiny that impacts many firms, it is more critical than ever that all lawyers contribute to the growth of their law firms.

On the Managing Partner Forum this month, there is an article by Gail Crosley, CPA that was pretty darn good about pointing out the differences between drivers and passengers, and their respective contributions (or lack thereof) to the growth of their firms. Being an accountant, presumably she was talking about accounting firms; but the analogy is just as applicable to law firms.

She talks about how drivers:

  • exercise initiative;
  • assume a leadership role;
  • develop or expand a practice area; and
  • take the firm in a favorable direction;

In the legal world, I like to refer to drivers as rainmakers.  Those partners who contribute little in terms of marketing and business development are pretty much along for the ride; thus, simply passengers.  They rely on others to keep the work coming in, and expect it will always be that way.

In the New Normal, that approach is not viable or sustainable. Partners who rely on other partners to support their practice by giving them work will find it increasingly difficult for their partners to continue doing so.  Other more junior lawyers at lower rates will be given the work, if for no other reason that clients will/are refusing to pay the higher rates.

The result is not pretty.  The non-rainmakers will be de-equitized, paid less, or, as is often the case, asked to leave.  In the first month of this blog’s existence (January 2005), I wrote a post entitled “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired!” It is no less true today, but in Crosley’s parlance, I should say that drivers won’t be left behind, but there will be less and less room for passengers.

It seems pretty straight forward then, that you should become a driver in your firm, if you are not already.

Read a post on the Cordell Parvin Blog about the reasons your client development efforts may not be working. I’ve heard lawyers complain over the years how they are doing “stuff,”, but nothing seems to happen.

I’ll put a different twist on Parvin’s post by suggesting ten tips (using his thoughts) you can use to improve your business development efforts:

  1. Do more than good work. Clients may not fully appreciate what the value of your work product is (most didn’t go to law school afterall).  So, you need to let clients and potential clients know about you and your firm, and what you could do for them;
  2. Prepare a plan. You need to prepare your very own personal, focused business development plan;
  3. Implement the plan.  Maybe it isn’t fair you have to both sell and produce the work product. Well, that’s life in the personal services business. Keep the pipeline fed, using the tools at your disposal or the work eventually will not be there (ask many partners let go by law firms).  Look at Kane’s Top Ten Markting Tips for some ideas in getting started;
  4. Educate clients vs. selling them. Nobody likes to be sold anyway.  Personally, I sell myself, after being educated about the product or service, and why I should be interested in it. So, educate clients and prospects about the reasons and benefits of hiring you;
  5. You need to be very focused.  That is the reason for having a thoughtout plan you will implement.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take work that comes over the transom, or change it.  But, don’t lose sight of the plan.  You can change it as long as part of a thoughtful refocusing process;
  6. Be client-centric vs. self centered. That begins with understanding the client’s business, industry, and goals of the organization/client contacts. Clients have told me how frustrating it is to have to educate lawyers all the time about their business, and the context within which the legal issues come into play;
  7. You need to raise your profile.  Work on being more visible to your target audience through writing, speaking, and networking with trade groups, associations, or community organizations where your desired clients hang out;
  8. Leave your comfort zone.  It’s easier to eat lunch at your desk rather than to implement your plan, particularly when you have billing pressures.  But avoid taking the comfortable out.  You need to stretch yourself and not forget the importance of the other half of your job;
  9. Be a team player. Within your firm and with client contacts with whom you deal, look at your job as a joint team effort; and
  10. Provide extraordinary service.  Go above and beyond just good work.  That is the minimum in today’s competitive marketplace. which is vital today in the highly competitive market. Clients want more value so consider ways to give it to them.

Be positive, and look for ways that your business development efforts will work for you.  Remember, rainmakers don’t get fired.

I’m not much of a fisherman but I do understand some of the basics around those who take this sport seriously. They know that you must have the right equipment, learn as much as possible as to where the fish are hanging out, and be patient.

There is a very entertaining article by Sue Bramall that appears in the UK’s The Law Society Gazette. Bramall relates good fly fishing techniques to effective business development.

Her tips include:

  • Not the right time.  Basically, this refers to clients that do not have a need for your services.  Timing just isn’t right, and thus is similar to a fisherman trying to catch fish when they’re not feeding;
  • Nor the right place. Obviously if the fish are not where you are fishing, you will not be very successful. Nor would you be effective in marketing, if your clients don’t hang out where you spend your business development dollars and efforts;
  • The right lure. Fisherman use different lures for different fish.  Clients too respond to different marketing activities.  A shotgun approach is more likely to work for plaintiffs’ attorneys, where a more focused rifle shot would not.  Know your marketplace;
  • Planning ahead.  By paying attention to activities by location, season, etc., you can better estimate where the fish will be and possibly in a feeding frenzy.  So too when it comes to specific legislative activity, or high profile cases, or changes in public policy.  Anticipating and preparing in advance can put you in a better position to provide the needed advice when things start happening;
  • Fly on the water. Like having the right fly on the water to snare fish, it is important for lawyers to have the right marketing tools ready and to USE them.  Doesn’t help to know what needs to be done, but continue to sit behind your desk when you should be out and about;
  • Respond to opportunities quickly.  Fishermen know that when there is a tug on the line, they need to react quickly.  No different when your firm receives an inquiry about its services;
  • Be patient. Patience is synonymous with fishing, which was not one of my assets in my youth.  A pal and I after a night of “partying” would often go fishing at the Cape Cod Canal after midnight.  We would give it 15 minutes and if we didn’t get a bite, we’d pack it in.  If you make a presentation at a conference, and then you don’t get immediate work out of it, do you no longer seek speaking opportunities?    Patience is truly a virtue we can learn from fisherman;
  • Don’t give up. Developing business is part of the profession.  More today than ever.  If something doesn’t work (and you’ve given it the old college try), then try something else.  Try to enjoy the moment.

Like good fisherman and rainmakers, both of whom love the sport of it, keep at it.

P.S. Thanks to my LegalBizDev colleague, Gary Richards, for putting me on to Bramall’s article.

One might ask how networking tips for brand new associates would be applicable to partners. Stick with me here, because in my experience there are many partners who know what they should have been doing in terms of staying in touch with former classmates, colleagues, people they’ve met, etc. but haven’t.  So, they could gain from Steven Taylor’s interview of Scott Westfahl, director of professional development at Goodwin Procter recently on Attorney at Work.

As Taylor points out, the old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” (1951, G. P. Bush and L. H. Hattery in an article on obtaining federal employment in Science magazine) is not applicable to lawyers, of course.  But don’t downplay the value of who you know, and who you know that can help you get legal work.

It’s what networking is all about. And Taylor’s and Westfahl’s tips can be helpful to any lawyer, since it is not taught as part of the core curriculum in law schools.  So, the networking tips mentioned include:

  • Keep in touch with law school classmates (and with college and high schools ones as well – surprising how that little nerd in junior high turned out to be very successful).  You should reach out and touch your contacts on a quarterly or least semi-annual basis to catch up and stay top of mind.  Don’t wait until you need their help with an introduction;
  • Identify groups of good contacts, and build those newer, external relationships as well;
  • Offer to help them with their goals (based on the idea “give to get”); and
  • Use social media as a tool (but don’t forget that networking is personal, and face-to-face meetings are still important).

New lawyers should not overlook the importance of maintaining and developing networks, just because they are busy learning the skills needed to be a good lawyer.  Nor should partners who have not got as effective a network as they would like, since it is not too late to reconnect with those former classmates and other contacts they have ignored for many years.

I hate it when someone hits me side of the head to get my attention.  BUT, it does work ya know.  All week I’ve been procrastinating on this week’s post.  Lo and behold I run across Ruth Carter’s post “Beat Back Procrastination” on Attorney at Work this morning.  It got my attention.

Do you procrastinate when it comes to developing business?  It’s easy to do, especially with client deadlines, billable hour requirements, etc. getting in the way.

Carter has 5 possible solutions for you:

  • Set short time frames for tasks.  Called the Pomodoro technique, you work on specific tasks in short blocks of time – say 15-30 minutes (she suggests 25) without allowing ANY interruptions by phone, visitors, email and so forth.  Tasks might include making that call to a client or referral source, or strategizing on your next move relating to your action plan, and the like. (Think: hey, it’s just a few minutes and it will be over soon);
  • Change your scenery.  Banish yourself to the library (your firm still has one, right?) or the public library or some other reasonably quiet place (no you can’t count the time it takes to get there as part of your task time!);
  • Punish yourself.  Don’t let yourself hit the bed until you’ve completed your work.  (Problem with that is that my home office is one of my favorite places to sleep.  Feet up on the desk isn’t the most comfortable position, but I’m capable of dropping right off);
  • Reward yourself. Promise to treat yourself to something right after the task is done.  Carter’s example of putting a “bucket of ice with a high-quality beer” within eyesight is one way.  (personally, I prefer a bottle of sauvignon blanc); and
  • Clean up your surroundings/small items. Sometimes a messy office is a distraction, or your “To Do” is just too long.  (actually, doing simple, easy tasks first vs. the high priority work sometimes helps me to get motivated for the important stuff).

See if there isn’t something here to help you stop procrastinating.  Or, you could have someone use the old 2×4 method.