Over the next several weeks, I want to take Friday to give a portion of a coaching session. I will share with you questions I get in coaching sessions or questions I get from you the readers and my answers to those questions.

Recently a young associate I coach asked me how to attract new clients.

I believe the first step is to understand how lawyers generally get business and see which model might work best for you. I have witnessed four main ways lawyers get business.

  1. By becoming the very best in your field of law over time. If you were thought to be the best civil trial lawyer, or corporate M&A lawyer or labor and employment lawyer in Texas, or maybe even your city, it is unlikely you would need to do very much marketing or client development. I have heard in-house counsel say that when it is a bet the company matter, they will go with whoever they perceive to be the best lawyer to handle it. 
  2. If you are a litigator, by representing a company that is in litigation frequently, or if you are a transactional lawyer by representing a company that does a lot of deals. You get this opportunity most frequently because you have built a strong relationship with the person who chooses outside counsel. A lawyer I coached is a young partner in a firm noted for its litigation practice. He is also close friends with an in-house lawyer at a Fortune 100 company who selects outside litigators. He and his firm are always on the short list.  This approach works well until your client is acquired by another company or your contact retires or leaves the company.
  3. By narrowing your focus to an industry niche and becoming a "go to" lawyer in that niche. That is the approach I took. You will need to be writing for industry publications and speaking at industry meetings. Your practice using this approach may be broader than your local community.
  4. By being very active in the bar, the community and building many relationships. You will get referrals from other lawyers or people active in your community.  If you enjoy being out  in the community and never eating alone, this approach will work for you. Several lawyers I coached have several hundred friends in their outlook address book or Facebook page. One lawyer I coached was the Chair of the ABA YLD and is now active in the litigation section. I have seen this approach provide many opportunities for those lawyers.

Which of these approaches fits you the best? I am obviously prejudiced by my own experience, but here is how I see it. The first approach is a long term play and requires opportunities along the way. The second is based on having a solid relationship with someone who ends up at the right place. I believe the third takes less time and is less based on fortuitous circumstances. It still takes time and lots of hard work, but there is more in your control. The fourth fits lawyers who have lots of contacts and enjoy spending time with them.

If you have a question you want me to answer in one of these Friday coaching sessions, send it to jflo@cordellparvin.com