Greetings from Phoenix, where unless you live here, it’s hard to imagine how hot it is outside. I’m coaching lawyers here and one topic we have been discussing is how each lawyer can become a “go to” lawyer in his or her field.

Do you remember a blog I posted: Lawyers: Being the Best in the World is Seriously Underrated ?

 The title is based on  Seth Godin’s quote: “Being the best in the world is seriously under rated.” The world in this case is being seen by your target market as being the best at something they need.

My first target market was commercial businesses, then I narrowed it to the construction industry. A few years later I further narrowed my target market to highway, heavy civil construction contractors.

At the time, that was a fast growing industry due to Interstate construction throughout the United States. Narrowing my focus was one of the most important things I ever did.

You might be thinking that focusing on an industry may not work for you. If you are, I urge you to reconsider, because the more narrow your focus, the more likely you can be “best in that world.”

Forbes recently published: The 10 Fastest-Growing Industries in The US. Take a look. Reading it almost made me return to my law practice and put my guides pictured below on social media.

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Which industries are growing fast, but are not over crowded with lawyers seeking to serve those businesses? If you find one with those characteristics and one you would be passionate about representing, you can become the “go to lawyer.”

Before Father’s Day, Jill asked what I wanted. I told her I didn’t want anything she could buy. I would prefer something she could make or something that shared her thoughts about our father-daughter times.

On Sunday she gave me a small book titled: “What I love about Dad, by Jill.” She couldn’t have come up with anything better. One of the pages was titled: “I admire your dedication to…” Jill completed the sentence with “learning.”

It was an insightful choice. I owe my career to constantly learning. I’m still learning. Next week, you’ll learn about my next learning adventure.

Are you focused on relationships with only people your age? If so you are not alone and you would likely tell me those friends are not in a position to send you business.

When I was a young lawyer, I never thought I should limit my relationships to people my age. Some of my very best friends, clients and referrals sources were actually my father’s and mother’s age. A few of them also played a big role in helping me and giving me opportunities.

If you are a regular reader, you might remember that I met Harry Lindberg in 1981 when I did a presentation for on November 7, to the Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association (VRTBA). In those days, before PowerPoint, I wrote each word I planned to say, memorized it, and took no notes to the podium to speak. I kept many of those written presentations that I studied for hours before speaking.

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At the time Harry worked with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

After hearing me speak, he asked that I speak to the national association. That single gesture was likely the most important opportunity I ever received. I spoke to the ARTBA contractors in the summer of 1982 and that led to my speaking again on the panel in 1983.

Harry later became the executive director of  the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association (WTBA). Harry invited me to speak at many WTBA annual meetings, and introduced me to several Wisconsin contractors who became lifelong friends and clients.

Nancy and I loved Harry and his wife Phyllis. They were very close friends and we loved doing road trips with them. We met them during the winter in Palm Springs and in Scottsdale.

Cordell Nancy Phyllis Lind

As seen above, one summer we went on what we called “Our Great Wisconsin Road Trip.” We started in Madison, drove to the far northeast corner of Wisconsin. Then we drove across the state to the Apostle Islands, where the photo was taken.

Another year in September Nancy and I flew to Madison and watched the Badgers play on Saturday, Then Harry and Phyllis took us to Green Bay and we watched the Packers play on Sunday.

If you are a young lawyer, there is someone older than you like Harry who can be a great friend and who can help you. Don’t ignore them, Seek them out.

Does your law firm have a client development coaching program? In my experience only a handful of firms are investing in helping young lawyers develop those skills.

If your firm thinks it is valuable for your younger lawyers to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, here are some client development skills you might consider teaching them.

Junior Associates:

  1. Dress for Success
  2. Business Etiquette
  3. How to Network
  4. How to Remember Names
  5. Active Listening Skills
  6. Systematic Ways to Keep in Contact
  7. What Clients Want and Expect
  8. Taking Control of Your Career
  9. How to Set Goals and Prepare a Development Plan
  10. Using Non-Billable Time Wisely

Senior Associates:

  1. Client Development Principles and Practical Tips
  2. Building Profile:
    (a) Your Website Bio;
    (b) Writing Articles that Will Generate Business:
    (c) Presentations the Will Generate Business;
    (d) Joining Organizations and Associations;
    (e) How to Follow Up After an Event
  3. Building Relationships with Clients:
    (a) How Clients Select;
    (b) What Clients Want;
    (c) Learning the Voice of the Client;
    (d) Thinking Like a Client;
    (e) How to ask questions;
    (f) Client Service;
    (g) Building Trust;
    (h) Building Rapport;
    (i) Personality Traits;
    (j) Following Up After Completing Project
  4. RFPs and Client Pitches
  5.  Client Interviews

New Partners:

  1. Coaching Program-Group and Individual: (a) Setting a Group Goal; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Group Goal; (c) Accountability
  2. How to Prepare a Business Development Plan: (a) Setting Business Development Goals; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Goals; (c) Making Client Development Part of Habits
  3. StrengthsFinder and How Each Can Best Use Time
  4. Becoming the “Go to” Lawyer
  5. Delegating and Building the Team
  6. Cross Serving
  7. Client Visits
  8. Selling Skills
  9. Becoming a Trusted Advisor
  10. Client Development Mistakes to Avoid
  11. Dealing with Difficult Clients

 

Does your firm have anyone helping to develop the next generation of rainmakers?

Our firm didn’t have anyone, so I started coaching our new partners. I loved that work so much that I gave up my big partnership draw, left my law firm and started coaching lawyers full-time.

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Over more than 12 years, I’ve figured out what I’ve done to  help the lawyers with whom I have worked:

  1. Identifying what is the lawyer’s definition of success
  2. Planning and goal setting to achieve the success
  3. Figuring out each lawyer’s major strengths and offering ideas and best practices on how to use those strengths
  4. Answering questions and providing feedback and suggestions
  5. Accountability: Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  6. Overcoming challenges.
  7. Role playing and experiential learning
  8. Presentation/communication/writing articles and blogs skills
  9. Understanding how clients select lawyers and how to be considered and selected
  10. Networking, developing relationships and converting those relationships into business
  11. Understanding what clients want and how to give it to them.
  12. Referral to outside sources on career and client development
  13. Opportunities for team building and cross-selling

Do you remember I recently wrote about the difference between teaching and coaching?

As you will see, the first six actions are in the coaching portion of the program and the last seven actions are in the training and teaching portion of the program.

I loved my law practice. I loved my clients. I appreciated what I was being paid, which was more than I ever dreamed possible.  But, there’s nothing better than receiving a hand-written note from a lawyer I coached several years ago, describing how the lawyer has become a top rainmaker, or leader in their firm.

If you know me, you know why that is so valuable to me.

As you might imagine, I read dozens of blogs written by lawyers at least one time. What causes  your dream potential client to go back and read a second, third, fourth post and subscribe?

If we’ve worked together, you already know the answer.  Your potential client is looking for three things when he or she reads a blog written by a lawyer:

  1. Does the blog help him with his business?
  2. Does the blogger know her stuff?
  3. Is the blogger someone he or she would like to know?

Seth Godin posted recently: Microcopy in the age of a glance It’s worth a moment to read it. He points out that today, most people rarely get to the end of what you have written. He’s right.

If you read on, you’ll find he describes the importance of being human and being confident.

If your dream client read your blog for the first time today, would he or she see those two important elements?

I could answer by simply saying that every lawyer I have coached wishes he or she had started focusing on client development earlier in their career. But, let me give my own example.

Is your firm providing client development coaching for it next generation?

I tell law firm leaders that when I was growing up I played baseball every day during the summer. I played all the way through college.

I have not swung a baseball bat in 30 years or more. If I went to a batting cage today, I am not positive I would hit the ball, but I am postive I would not think about the technique of my swing.

On the other hand, I never played golf when I was young. I played for the first time when I was in law school. Now, 40 plus years later, when I stand over a golf ball, I am still thinking about all the things I need to do—technique.

If baseball and golf analogies do not resonate with you, think about driving. If you drove to work today, did you think about technique: I need to brake now, I need to put my turn signal on now? I bet you did those things naturally.

Then think back when you were in drivers’ ed. When you drove then, I am confident you thought about what you needed to do. It was not natural like it is today.

Becoming a rainmaker and generating business takes the same kind of practice. The earlier in your career you can work on client development and learn how to do it, the sooner client development and people skills will come naturally to you.

If you start now, at some point when you are meeting with a potential client, or giving a presentation, or attending a networking event, you will not think about your technique.

So, if your firm offers a program to help you become a rainmaker, jump at the chance to participate. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a chance to work on it together.

I am looking forward to making a presentation for a law firm today:

Building Your Client Development Tool Kit:
 The nuts and bolts of business development

When I was working on this presentation, I was searching for something and came across a couple of articles on shaving I immediately saw a connection between shaving tools and client development tools.

Here is the connection:

  • The principles of shaving have always been the same. But, the tools we use for shaving have dramatically changed.
  • The principles of client development have always been the same. But, the tools we use to implement those principles have dramatically changed.

And, here is the most important connection:

  • In both shaving and client development, the new tools are really great, especially when you do not have much time. But, to get a better shave, or to build a better and deeper relationship with potential clients, use the old tools.

I suspect I have been shaving for over 50 years. I can remember traveling along the highway and reading the Burma Shave signs.

Later, I remember when Edge Shaving Gel was introduced in 1970. Next, disposable razors were introduced followed by multi-blade razors. That all prompted the New York Times article: Shaving With Five Blades When Maybe Two Will Do.

Recently I saw an article: How to get that perfect shave  from the Today Show Weekend Edition. Here is the essence of the article:

Now that men of all ages are paying more attention to their appearance, it’s no wonder that the hottest trend right now in male grooming is a return to the traditional wet shave – and millions of men have been shocked to discover that the “old fashioned” method of shaving they thought went out with the Hula Hoop is actually the best quality shave you can get.

After reading the Today show article, I ordered two of the recommended shaving creams. Over the years I have become a huge fan of Taylor of Old Bond Street.

So, what would I say about client development? Maybe something like this:

In 2017, lawyers are paying more attention to client development than ever before. The new tools, like blogging and social media, enable lawyers to more easily become visible and credible to potential clients. As a result, they are the hottest trends in client development right now. But, to build long-lasting, trust-based relationships with clients, potential clients and referral sources, use the old tools that some thought went out with hand-written notes.

Out of curiosity, how are your lawyers doing with the new client development tools? The old ones? Do they need an update?

Years ago I read The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert F. Galford. It was one of the first books I had read that I felt really applied to lawyers.

I was so impressed that we formed a group of lawyers at my old firm who read the book together and met monthly to share ideas.  We actually captured our main takeaways in two PowerPoint presentations and shared those with other lawyers in the firm.

The Trusted Advisor

Let me share one example I found helpful:

In The Trusted Advisor the authors made a point that technical skills are not enough. You have to see the world from your clients point of view.

They quote Stephanie Wethered, an Episcopal priest who describes our ability to emphatically listen as being in direct relation to how closely we can feel what the other person feels. The authors then list 23 things that good listeners do. According to Maister, Green and Galford, they:

  1. Probe for clarification
  2. Listen for unvoiced emotions
  3. Listen for the story
  4. Summarize well
  5. Empathize
  6. Listen for what’s different, not for what’s familiar
  7. Take it all seriously (they don’t say, “You shouldn’t worry about that”)
  8. Spot hidden assumptions
  9. Let the client “get it out of his or her system”
  10. Ask “How do you feel about that?”
  11. Keep the client talking (“What else have you considered?”)
  12. Keep asking for more detail that helps them understand
  13. Get rid of distractions while listening
  14. Focus on hearing your version first
  15. Let you tell your story your way
  16. Stand in your shoes, at least while they’re listening
  17. Ask you how you think they might be of help
  18. Ask what you’ve thought of before telling you what they’ve thought of
  19. Look at (not stare at) the client as he or she speaks
  20. Look for congruity (or incongruity) between what the client says and how he or she gestures and postures
  21. Make it seem as if the client is the only thing that matters and that they have all the time in the world
  22. Encourage by nodding head or giving slight smile
  23. Are aware of and control their body movements (no moving around, shaking legs, fiddling with a paper clip)

These are great tips and just one reason The Trusted Advisor is well worth reading, and sharing ideas.

Recently I wrote Client Development Coaching: You will learn what will work for you. A lawyer I coach read the post and asked me for examples she might borrow to find her own best approach.

I am an example of a lawyer who narrowed my focus to an industry. Seth Godin blogged about narrowing focus marketing approach in Un essaim de puces.

As you know, I began my client development efforts as a commercial litigator. I struggled to figure out how I could market myself. I was flailing away marketing to everyone. Unfortunately for me, there were several older and better known commercial litigators in my home town.

I changed my focus and narrowed my target market to highway and transportation construction contractors. It was by far the most important decision I made in my career. I actually widened my practice, to include contracts and every day advice. I narrowed my client base so I could be more valuable as a trusted advisor.

So, if you are marketing to everyone and not finding any success, you can narrow your focus to a smaller group, find a niche practice, or continue marketing to a wider audience. Whatever approach, use the tools, like blogging to widen your visibility.

 

What are you doing to make a presentation that will give you the best chance to be hired? Here’s one key: Give the audience something you know they will find valuable.

As you might imagine, over the years I have given many presentations at ABA, State Bar, City and County Bar meetings. My presentations have ranged from career development to client development to leadership.

If I have made a presentation for your group, you know I ask for young (and sometimes experienced) lawyers to let me know the 1-3 things they want to make sure I cover, or 1-3 questions they might have. I personally respond to each email I receive.

A few years ago a young lawyer attending a Bar meeting said:

He was working the room before the room was assembled! Not bad…

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but he was correct.  I always approached my presentations to construction  associations the same way.

I frequently asked the construction association executive to let members know that I wanted to hear from them with questions or topics they wanted to make sure I answered or covered in the presentation. Then, I made sure and include the subjects or questions. I confess that I never received a question or topic that I was not planning on covering.

Why is working the room this way important and why should you do it for your presentations? It’s pretty simple: You will address what the audience is seeking to learn.

Out of curiosity, how are you preparing for your presentations? Are you getting feedback? Is someone looking at your slides and discussing the number of words you have placed on slides?