In the professional services world, firms often hire in-house staff to handle their marketing and/or business development. While I highly recommend having at least one person serve as the point of contact and responsible party for these items, the lawyers themselves must often perform the actual business development in order for it to be effective.
As I wrote in a previous post differentiating between and describing the interplay of law firm marketing and law firm business development, business development is all about relationships and sales. Attorneys and business owners will feel more respected and be quicker to form a long-term business relationship with one of the lawyers that will be handling their potential legal matters than a nice person who can set up a trade show booth but has no direct legal experience or knowledge.
Since many law firms want institutional or repeat clients, lawyers need to invest their own time in building relationships with these folks. With a busy docket, family obligations, and possibly even a personal hobby or two, how can lawyers fit business development into their schedules? We need to treat business development as strategically as we do our actual legal work.
Five Tips for Fitting in Strategic Law Firm Business Development
- BE SELECTIVE. Be extremely selective about which networking events you attend. If you have five potential events that you can attend in one month, pick one or two that will provide you with the maximum exposure to your desired target audience. From the outset of your efforts, you must decide what type of people you want and need to associate with, and then begin focusing on events they attend and groups they belong to.
- CALENDAR IT. Schedule a set number of business development hours into your schedule every single week. You can break this amount of time up, if you can only fit in a 15-30 minute coffee meeting or phone call a day. Even if you do not have a legal industry or business networking event on your schedule for the week, block out two to three hours spread across your workdays during each each week as “HOLD – BIZ DEV” and tell your staff not to schedule over those times. A good goal is to start with one business lunch per week and one industry event every two weeks.
- DON’T FORGET THE MAIL. Send something in the mail or by delivery, such as a birthday card, a thank you note, or a book that you liked and wanted to share with the contact. People love getting deliveries at work, even if just a simple handwritten thank you note – and they remember it.
- DO IT VIRTUALLY. If you and your contacts live too far away for regular in-person get-togethers or you are both stuck chained to your desks, you can always use a Webinar, WebEx, or even a free Google Hangout to virtually interact. Google Hangouts on Air (HOA) are free and relatively easy to use. They can be a great way to meet up quickly and easily with lawyers you are working with on a matter, or even your clients. I have enjoyed using HOA for educational presentations for lawyers.
- HELP OTHERS FORM CONNECTIONS. Pay it forward. When someone asks you for an “in” with one of your contacts, do it. Also, always take the time to refer matters to lawyers within your network and to document the referral on a group email introducing your connections to each other. Even more so, when a younger colleague or out-of-work contact seeks your help in reviewing their resume or finding them a way into an interview, take the time to do that for them. You never know when you will be on the receiving end of the same needs, and I can promise you that the recipients will remain grateful and return the favor if needed.
Keep Your Lawyers' Eyes on Business Development
The legal services marketplace is more competitive than ever; and, if you do not take steps to both preserve existing valuable relationships and to develop new ones, you will regret it! If your law firm would like assistance with creating a personalized business development strategy, contact us today.