Today is the  50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic space flight on Friendship 7. (It is also my birthday). This year The Beach Boys are going on their 50th Anniversary Tour. On April 26, they will appear in Grand Prairie, Texas. Having watched their first stage appearance in 20 years at the Grammy Awards, I was picking up “Good Vibrations” until I discovered the price of the tickets. I feel fortunate to have The Beach Boys: Good Timin’ – Live at Knebworth, England 1980 concert video on my computer.

The principles of space flight never changed, but the tools did change. Think about it. Just seven years after John Glenn’s historic flight, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. What a great time to be an American.

The Beach Boys also made changes. As reported in Wikipedia:

The primarily Brian-composed Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single (both released in 1966) featured a complex, intricate and multi-layered sound that was a far cry from the simple surf rock of The Beach Boys’ early years.

I was admitted to practice law in Virginia in 1971. A lot has changed since then. Yet, the principles of client development have not changed. When I first started and still today, client development is about being seen as a”go to” lawyer, meaning building your profile  and about building trust based relationships with clients, potential clients and referral sources. When I do presentations teaching lawyers, I like to use this visual to depict these principles:

As you will see:

  1. You have to be visible, meaning people need to know who you are
  2. You have to be credible, meaning people need to know what you do and that you do it well
  3. That leads to “weak tie” relationships
  4. Those “weak tie” relationships lead to recommendations
  5. Then you have a meeting with the potential client
  6. Your success at that point depends on building trust and rapport with the potential client, who is asking himself: Can I trust this lawyer to handle this matter? and What is it going to be like to work with this lawyer?

While the principles of client development have not changed, the tools have dramatically changed. Among other things, potential clients will review your website bio and “Google” you after receiving a recommendation. They may also “Google” the legal area to see if your name or firm comes up. The internet has also enabled lawyers to become visible and credible to a wider group of “weak tie” relationships.

I was reminded of that recently when I received a very kind LinkedIn recommendation from Holland and Knight partner, David Donoghue. I coached Dave on client development when he was a Jenkens and Gilchrist associate. He is now a partner and prolific blogger with Chicago IP Litigation Blog and Retail Patent Litigation Blog. I was struck by part of what Dave said about me:

Cordell is phenomenal. Cordell has the significant benefit of having built his own practice and he combines that with a genuine love and appreciation for basically everyone he meets. So he quickly develops an interest in everyone he coaches and can offer real insight. (I am thinking Wow that is really nice, but here is what follows.) This alone would be nice, but not all that powerful if he were teaching how to do it the way he did it 40 years ago. Instead, Cordell has adapted to the new realities of legal practice and has phenomenal insights into it.

Dave makes clear that the tools for business development have changed. I find it ironic that junior lawyers know the technology, but do not have the “go to” expertise and relationships and senior lawyers who are “go to” lawyers and have the relationships do not adapt because they fear the technology. Last year I did a cross-country tour for a firm, teaching their experienced lawyers how to blog and use the new social media tools.

If you are an experienced, senior lawyer, what are you doing to adapt to the new realities of client development?