Building your Practice
How do you make a horse thirsty?
Most lawyers will never have studied one unit at law school on business development. This in itself should sound the alarm bells. To be successful in business development, lawyers need to develop both the desire and the skills to be an effective business developer.
I have worked with many number of law firms over the past 10 years as part of my work as a business development coach and would place lawyers into 3 camps when it comes to business development.
- Those who understand its importance, do it well, but don't know what it is that they are actually doing. Say 20%.
- Those who want to improve in this area and are hungry for tips and tools. Say 65%.
- Those who think it is a load of rubbish, and not their responsibility. Say 15%.
If you are a practice manger, one of the biggest challenges you will face is how to make the lawyers receptive to investing themselves into business development. There can be confusion about whose role and responsibility this is.
If you employ marketing people within your firm there could be an understanding that it is their job to help attract and retain clients. I would argue this is part of their role. Law firms existed successfully for many years without marketing staff on their payroll.
Get the soil right
Any farmer knows that if you want to grow great crops you must invest the right amount of time into soil preparation. If the soil is not well prepared, it will be unlikely that the crops will grow. Think of this when you consider business development within your firm. Invest time into building a culture within your firm around business development. Who is responsible for it? In most firms every person should play some role.
Busting the big business development myth
Most people assume that business development is all about people skills. It is often perceived that lawyers struggle in this area; hence they will not be great at business development. Let me clarify 2 things.
- I have worked with plenty of lawyers who have excellent people skills, yet they struggled to understand how to build their practice.
- Business development is more about following a process and planning than it is about people skills.
People skills will help you build a practice but I doubt very much they will assist you if you do not have a plan. Learning how to smile, shake someone's hand and get into a conversation at an event are fairly basic skills. I would hope my children by the age of 8 have these mastered. I would not waste my firm's money on these sorts of programs.
Understanding how to develop (and why to!) a business development plan and then working that plan is of far greater importance.
If your lawyers don't have a marketing or business development plan or cannot articulate clearly how they build their practice then I suggest you read on.
What is the best way to get started?
- What type of clients would I like more of?
- How can I reach them?
- Why clients should do work with me and my firm?
- Which groups or associations do I belong to?
- Which groups or associations should I join in the next 6months?
- Who within the firm should I spend more time with each week?
- Which 2 people will I have breakfast or lunch with next week? (external and internal contacts)
- What articles will I write in the next 6 months?
- What events will I attend in the next 6 months (and who will I invite)?
- What is my social networking plan?
- Which events do I want to speak at in the next 12 months?
- What is my referral process?
- Who should I refer more work to?
- When was the last time I updated my bio?
- What is my process for staying in touch with my contacts?
- How many contacts do I have in my data base at the moment?
Answer those questions honestly and then take your answers to your managing partner or practice manager and discuss.
The author of this article
Steve Herzberg has a background that combines results, education and business development. He played State Cricket in the 1990's has a marketing degree, is a Level 3 coach and has successfully built his own business NRG Solutions for the past 5 years.
Steve works with law firms across a range of levels coaching their staff to put in place business development systems that work.
He knows from his own experience that it requires discipline, patience and most importantly a process to build a professional services practice.
He gains credibility with his audiences because he has applied all of the principles he speaks on to his own business.
Steve's clients include Kemp Strang, Truman Hoyle, Carroll and O'Dea, Henry Davis York and Gadens Lawyers.
Steve designed the program Building Your Practice which is specifically tailored for lawyers. This is based on 4 years of research which included sharing an office with a law firm.
Steve is an engaging and humorous speaker who uses stories, case studies and evidence when presenting.