Recently I met and had coaching sessions for the last time with a group of lawyers I have coached for the last 18 months. They were all associates when we started. Now many of them have been promoted to partner and others will likely be promoted when they are eligible.
In our last meeting I discussed some of the 15 things I thought they should know about attracting clients:
- Why it is Important to Attract Clients: Having clients who want to hire you when they need you is a your only security.
- Business Clients Expect You to Understand Their Business: In addition to being a fine lawyer, business clients want you to understand their industry, business and them. Potential business clients generally cannot determine whether you are a fine lawyer. They will rely on recommendations. They can very easily determine whether you understand their industry and their business.
- Set Yourself Apart by Being Responsive: In almost every survey, business clients say they are not happy with their outside counsel, because their lawyer is not responsive. You can easily set yourself apart just by being responsive.
- Writing and Speaking Attracts Clients: You can attract clients by writing and speaking on topics that are most important to clients. Writing and speaking gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise and build rapport with potential clients.
- Identify Problems and Offer Solutions: One of the best ways to attract a potential client is to identify a problem and offer a solution before your competitors, and even before your potential client has identified the problem. In order to accomplish this task, you must stay on top of what is going on in your client’s world and be able to see the potential legal implications.
- Client Development is a Long-Term Process. Most lawyers work at it without success and give up too early. It will take you time to build your profile and develop relationships. Remember to have patience, persistence and perseverance.
- Clients Want Lawyers They Know, Like and Trust: I agree with the adage that all things else being equal, clients want to do business with lawyers they know, like and trust. A small percentage of legal work is “bet the company” work that goes to the lawyer thought to be the best in the world. A higher percentage of legal work is commodity work that goes to whoever is willing to charge the least. An even greater percentage of legal work goes to lawyers based on their ability to develop trust and rapport with clients. So, focus your efforts on building relationships.
- Increase the Number of “Weak Tie” Relationships: Most new clients hear about a lawyer when someone they know and trust recommends that lawyer. As often as not, the recommendation comes from someone with whom the lawyer has a “weak tie” relationship. Work on increasing the number of “weak tie” relationships who know you and appreciate your legal work.
- Spend More Time on Current Clients: When you actually have clients, the best practice is to make your current clients “raving fans” rather than spending the majority of your time trying to attract new clients. It is exciting to attract new clients. But, it is more important for you to make sure your existing clients are being served well.
- You Get One Chance to Make a Great First Impression: First impressions and first meetings with a potential new client really matter. Potential clients make quick decisions about lawyers with whom they meet. My best advice is to look and act professional and over-prepare for the meeting, with well-thought out questions.
- Abandon Traditional Selling Techniques: Clients do not want to be “sold” or to have a lawyer trying “closing techniques” to win their business. You likely do not feel comfortable using traditional sales techniques. That is good because they will not likely work for you.
- Don’t Criticize Other Lawyers: Never say anything bad to potential clients about other lawyers, especially lawyers or law firms they have used. I am always surprised that negative advertising works for political candidates. It certainly does not work well for you.
- Niche Practices are Easier to Develop: The more narrow a lawyer’s practice, the easier it is to identify potential clients and become visible and credible to them. If you market to everyone you market to no one. If you work on developing a niche practice, you will know where to find your potential clients and know what your potential clients care about.
- Use Your Strengths: Find your top 5 strengths using Gallop’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 and do things that fit you, and you will most enjoy. Client development will become drudgery if you are doing things you do not enjoy.
- Make Time for Client Development a Priority: You will never find time for client development. You have to make time for client development. To make time you want to make client development one of your top priorities.