building relationships

I was coaching a group of lawyers for the last time recently. At the end of our group meeting, the group’s leader asked for a good summary of what we had covered. I shared this blog post with the group and thought you might find it valuable.

I read a recent survey report of large (big law) firms. There was one survey question that really got my attention:

How important is business development to success in a law firm?

Here was the answer:

 A lawyer’s ability to generate business is the single most determinative factor in whether a lawyer will become an equity partner.

That certainly was no surprise. In fact, I thought that was kind of a Duh question and it certainly does not just apply to lawyers in large law firms.

I know how to develop business. I did it and many lawyers I have coached or who worked for me are doing it. If you want to learn, I want to help you. I urge you to learn how to:

  1. Motivate yourself to learn and attract clients
  2. Figure out and adopt attributes of successful lawyers/people that will work best for you
  3. Define what success means to you by figuring out what you want to achieve in your career and life
  4. Set stretch goals
  5. Prepare a detailed action plan to achieve goals
  6. Determine what learning will provide you with the greatest return on your time
  7. Determine what kind of client development efforts will best work for you
  8. Make time for client development when you are busy with billable work and have a family
  9. Get organized for a more productive day
  10. Hold yourself accountable for client development activities
  11. Best get outside your comfort zone to take your practice up a notch
  12. Be patient and persist when you are not seeing results
  13. Raise your visibility and credibility-Building Profile
  14. What organizations will be best for you
  15. Write an article, or blog post: picking the topic, how long, title, opening, closing
  16. Give a presentation: picking the topic, getting the opportunity, homework before the presentation, PowerPoint, opening, format, speaking skills, handout
  17. Use social media: blogging for business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,
  18. Build relationships with referral sources so they recommend you
  19. Network at events
  20. Determine what are your best sources of business
  21. Focus on Contacts (Client relationship management)
  22. Make pitches to clients who consider hiring you
  23. Make great first Impressions
  24. Clients Select: importance of website bio, relationships, recommendations, strength of weak ties, building trust and rapport, developing questions, listening skills and how to ask for business
  25. Provide extraordinary client service and cross-sell: what clients want, how to deliver it, ways to add value, cross-selling planning
  26. Develop your the team: leadership, team building, motivating younger lawyers, supervision and feedback

What else can I do to help you?

 

Are you in a small or medium sized law firm? If so you will want to read a report I saw recently:

How Small Law Firms Succeed Under the Pressure of Today’s Challenges … or Fail: 2016 State of U.S. Small law firms Study.  (Note: You have to fill out some information to get the study).

In the study, small law firm leaders identified their top challenges:

  1. Challenges acquiring new client business
  2. Client rate pressure/clients wanting more for less
  3. Spending too much time on administrative tasks

What are the most successful small firms doing differently?

In essence, the study shows that among “lawyer entrepreneurs,” simple goals allow each firm to fill in unique strategies to get there…

It is this same opportunity for entrepreneurship that will likely help position small law for greater growth in the coming years…

By contrast, successful firms are differentiating themselves – building a brand, leveraging it to win
new business, and investing in the firm’s future. Less successful or unsuccessful firms, on the other hand, are instead trying to cut their way to profitability.

If you are a long time regular reader, you know I believe:

  1. About 10% of the business out there is “bet the company” and whoever is perceived to be the top lawyer/law firm will get that business.
  2. About 30% of the business out there is price sensitive meaning clients will do it themselves or whoever is willing to do it at the cheapest price will get it.
  3. About 60% of the work out there will go to lawyers the potential client knows, likes and trusts.

Small firms should be actively seeking that 60%. Attracting those clients is based on building trust based relationships.

When I practiced law, my clients were my friends and my friends were my clients. Recently, Nancy and I were on vacation in Cabo San Lucas. There were five couples. Three were clients from my law practice and the fourth was the brother and his wife of one of those clients.

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Tomorrow  Nancy and I will travel to Phoenix where I will begin coaching lawyers in a firm there.

On Saturday, we’ll eat dinner with a lawyer I coached several years ago, her husband and three kids. Every time we go to Phoenix we see them. On Sunday, we’ll eat dinner with, you guessed it, a former client and his wife.

If you are a small firm, are you investing in your firm’s future?  If you are interested, I know I can help develop your next generation of rainmakers.

 

Several lawyers I coach prefer not to write or speak to industry groups. Instead they want to focus on building relationships. Michael Gillman, a real estate partner with Looper Reed & McGraw’s Dallas office, is one of those lawyers.

While Michael does not write or speak to industry groups, he has a passion for hunting and fishing and enjoys taking clients, prospective clients, referral sources and friends fishing and hunting with him. Having a passion for hunting and fishing brought Michael his largest client.

Twelve years ago Michael and his wife, Lisa, were walking through the neighborhood and came across a stray dog. Michael looked at the collar and found it belonged to James A, and it included his address. Michael knew James A was an active developer in Dallas.

Michael and Lisa took the dog to the address and found no one was home, so they took the dog home with them. On Monday Michael called Jim’s office and found out he was out of town because his father had passed away and he would be gone for three days.

During the three days, Michael also noticed an Arkansas hunting license on the collar. When Michael returned the dog, he told Jim that he also loves hunting. Later, Michael and Jim went duck hunting together. During the three-hour return trip, Jim mentioned a $390 million project he was developing and asked if Michael would like to do the legal work. That was 12 years ago. Jim and Michael have been friends and have worked together ever since.

The point of Michael’s story is there are a variety of ways to get business. One size does not fit all. Michael’s passion for hunting and fishing and his likeability make it natural for him to build relationships with people who share his passion.