Greetings from Phoenix, where I will be starting a coaching program with a new group of firm lawyers.

I frequently invite lawyers I coach to write guest posts for my blog. I find I learn something from each guest post.

Carlos Kelly is a Henderson Franklin shareholder in the firm’s Fort Myers office. Just a couple of weeks ago, his coaching group finished a 13 months coaching program.

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During our last one-on-one coaching session, Carlos showed me a book he was reading. I thought the book was interesting and I asked him to share he takeaways with you.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, “system” is a noun with ten definitions. Definition No. 9 says “[a] method; procedure” and it’s this definition that, in my view, makes “system” the most important word in the law.

Why? For starters, the justice system is the method, the procedure that we, as a society, use to resolve legal disputes, whether civil, criminal, administrative, or otherwise.

The concept of a system came to mind recently when I read a book entitled The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. If you haven’t read this book, you should, especially if you’re a college football fan, like me (Go Noles)—you’ll definitely learn things about the game as it’s been played over the last few years at the highest levels.

To me, the most fascinating chapters discussed how the most successful athletic directors, coaches, players, and commentators maximized their chances to achieve peak performance: use of a system. What was the system? Identify a goal, come up with a plan to achieve the goal, execute the plan, measure, repeat. Alabama’s head football coach, Nick Saban, is the prime example discussed.

The best of the best try to make the remarkable the routine. The more something is routine, the more likely the outcome will be successful.

And what happens when you make the remarkable the routine, apart from increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes? You build your brand—another lesson from “The System.” In today’s hyper-saturated, hyper-competitive world—no matter your line of work—building your brand is a must.

Beyond achieving peak performance and building brand recognition, a “take-away” for my practice area is that when a young lawyer comes to work with me, after he or she settles in, I ask:  “Do you have a system? What is it?” If the answer is no, I sit down with the young lawyer and we work on creating one.

A number of years ago, I wrote a “how to” article on filing an eminent domain lawsuit, which The Florida Bar Journal published. I still use elements of that system today to make my condemnation lawsuit filings routine.

So, like Carlos, I might ask you: Do you have a system for your client development efforts? What is it?

I’ve coached several lawyers who at one time or another had to raise money. One of those lawyers is Richard Mancini, a Henderson Franklin, trusts and estates litigation lawyer in the firm’s Bonita Springs, FL office.

In our last coaching session, Richard and I talked about “asking for business.” I was always uncomfortable asking until I read a SPIN Selling, a book written by Neil Rackham.

If you are a long time reader, you might recall I included it in My 6 Favorite Books on Selling. If you want to read a quick summary, check out  SPIN Selling: Stop Fumbling & Start Making Sales

As you might recall, SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. Once you ask questions to determine those things, you are in a position to ask the potential client if you can help him or her.

Richard told me a story about working on a political campaign while in college, and I’ve asked him to share it with you.

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When I was a University of South Florida student, I got involved with local politics.  I took classes on campaign management and was hired on to manage a local school board candidate’s campaign.

Everyone said that a first time candidate and a first time campaign manager had no chance of unseating a longtime incumbent.   They were wrong!  We made some local history when my candidate won.

One campaign management training sessions was how to get folks to make campaign donations.  The instructor, a longtime political junky, went through a litany of tried and true political campaign tools, including the direct mail solicitation, the open house at a friend’s house, and others.

But, he said there was one and only one real way to get donations to your campaign.  That one way was to ASK!  Asking in a direct mail piece is OK. Asking in an email is OK.  Asking over the telephone is OK. But asking in person is the best and most effective way.

The session went on for about an hour, with specific techniques and examples of campaign materials.  Finally, a hand went up in the back of the room. One of the other trainees stood up, looked at the instructor and said “I am working for candidate X, can you make a donation to his campaign?”  The instructor smiled, reached in his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill and handed it to the novice campaign worker.  He said he had been waiting for someone to ask.

It was that simple.  Just ask.

I never forgot that simple but very important lesson.

My trust, probate and guardianship litigation practice, demands that I attract new clients. So, I worked on it throughout my 15-year career. I’ve hosted receptions, my firm has sponsored events. I’ve given presentations.

All of these efforts have been beneficial, but the best and most effective way I’ve attracted new clients or gotten new referrals is to ASK!

Asking in an email is OK.  Asking over the telephone is OK. But, asking in person is the best and most effective way.

Cordell asked me to share my advice. It’s really pretty simple: Get up from your computer, meet the referral source or potential client in person, explain your practice, your experience, the qualities of your firm.

But, remember one more thing, before you leave the meeting, ASK!

Darn good advice. Bottom line: There comes a time when you want to ASK and best to do it in person.

 

I truly love coaching lawyers. I especially love coaching lawyers with a burning desire to learn. Over the years, I have coached very few first year lawyers, but those I have coached have been among the most motivated.

One of those lawyers is Michael Lehnert, an associate with Henderson Franklin. Michael is one of those lawyers every firm wants to have because he has a burning desire to learn and a great attitude about serving.

On his bio you will find how to connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter. (You could be his 16th follower on Twitter.)

Michael Lehnert

Michael just finished his first year at the firm and I have been coaching him since January. I asked him to share what he has learned about client development his first year. If you have any first year lawyers in your firm, or maybe even second, third and senior lawyers like me,  they will find Michael’s insights valuable.

As a first year associate, I thought all of my time would be spent reading statutes, compliance manuals, and reviewing contracts, all in an effort to understand what it means to be a transactional real estate lawyer.

While I have spent many, many hours doing all of those things, I have also had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time learning what client development means from Cordell Parvin.

Here are a few things I have picked up from my mentors at Henderson Franklin, from Cordell, and a bit from being thrown into the fire:

Lesson 1: The difference between a good lawyer and a successful one is client development.

Many lawyers can do their job well, but if they can’t find a client to pay them to do it, then their ability isn’t worth a whole lot. It is important for us to be able to see the world from our client’s perspective as well as our own.

Lesson 2: Networking is a $5.00 word for making friends.

We all know how to make friends, but for some reason, when I was told to go network at a big conference, I was dumbfounded.

“You mean I am supposed to walk up to random people and ask for business?”

It seemed disingenuous to me, and near impossible to do effectively. After all, what do I, in my months of experience, have to offer my seasoned colleagues and potential clients?

That all changed when I realized that networking isn’t just about extracting business from other people. It is about friends, developing and fostering relationships. It doesn’t matter whether those relationships are based on a desire to work together, or based simply on common interest. Now, I see the conference room as full of potential friends, and the room looks much brighter from that perspective.

Lesson 3: Client development is a daily activity.

Work comes when it’s available. When it does come, it goes to those at the top of the mind of the work distributor. To be on the top of that distributor’s mind, we need to be in contact with that person consistently. That way, when the opportunity to distribute the work arises, the distributor remembers you and what you do for a living.

The best ways I have learned to get on top of people’s minds and stay there is to:

  • Be consistent with your media presence,
  • Take every opportunity to Never Eat Alone, and
  • Be sure to reach out on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to those you already know.

Lesson 4: Client development permeates into all aspects of life.

As my childhood friend’s dad told me, “it’s nice to be nice to the nice.”

You never know whether your friend, neighbor, the person you held the door for, or the person you cut in line could be the next person considering giving you work, so treat everyone like they could be your client.

Also, client development takes time, and we all know how finite our time is. We have to schedule client development, just like we schedule meetings, workouts, and all the other activities we do on a daily basis.

If we don’t schedule it, you know it won’t happen, because even when we do schedule things, sometimes that unpredictable but highly important event happens, and we have to postpone.

Lesson 5: Patience is not only a virtue, it’s necessary.

Client development doesn’t happen overnight. You can meet someone today and not receive work from them until three years later, if at all.

As I understand it, the key is to keep putting yourself out there, and not to give up because your last few months of effort haven’t yielded any results. Client development, like many other aspects of life, is a numbers game. You win some, you lose some, but you will certainly lose all the games you don’t play.

Lesson 6: It’s not about what your client can do for you, but what you can do for your client.

When meeting a new person or new potential client focus on how you can add value to their life.

The common things people care about are health, wealth, and children (thanks, Keith Ferazzi!).

With that in mind, next time you find yourself meeting someone new, consider focusing on, for example, how you can help their kid get into their dream school, your new fruit smoothie recipe, or telling them about how you just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance (without switching to Geico).

I think you can see why the senior lawyers at Henderson Franklin are so delighted to have Michael working with them. I bet that 10 years from now, 20 years from now and beyond, he will still be working on becoming a more valuable lawyer for his clients.

Thank you Michael for some really great insights.