“New is shiny,” says one of the women. “New gets old,” interjects a stranger.
That response is the theme and most important line from the movie Take This Waltz, a movie shot in Toronto. The line also applies to lawyers getting new clients and retaining existing clients.
If you haven’t seen the movie and want to read a review, here is The Canadian National Post Review: New love gets old in the near-perfect Take This Waltz or the New York Times review: Sometimes Attraction Becomes a Slow Dance Around the Subject. If you see the movie, or read the reviews, you will see that the line: “New gets old” has multiple layers of meaning. One layer is that new relationships are exciting, but eventually they get old.
That is true about clients and client development. I have to admit that when I practiced law, almost nothing was more exciting than to be hired by a new client. As a young lawyer this was especially true, and I know from experience working with young lawyers, that it remains true for young lawyers today.
Years ago I read David Maister’s book: Managing The Professional Service Firm.In the book he made the point well, quoting a consultant who said:
When a new client is brought in, rockets go off, bells sound, your name gets in the firm newsletter and you can bank on a good bonus. If you bring in an equivalent amount of business from existing clients, the management yawns and says ‘at last he is doing his job.’
Maister goes on to say that professionals feel that if they do good work the clients will give the firm new work. There is also a feeling in some firms that all time spent with existing clients should be billable. Just like the romance in Take This Waltz, the relationship with existing clients gets old, and more importantly, that client may be taken for granted.
Just out of curiosity, when was the last time a group of lawyers in your firm brainstormed ideas of what the firm could do off the billable clock for existing clients to create more value to them?