Over all these past 12 plus years that I have coached lawyers, the most familiar refrain I have heard has been:
I wish I had started my client development efforts earlier
Why have so many lawyers waited until they became partners, when the pressure was on them to bring in business?
I say there are what I call client development myths.Here are the most common myths I see and my response:
- You either have it (skills to develop business) or you don’t. I can tell you from my personal experience that I did not naturally have it. Knowing that drove me to work at it and develop my skills. So, you can learn to successfully attract clients if you are open to ideas and willing to work at it.
- Just do good work, get a Martindale A-V rating and wait for the phone to ring. I was told that when I was an associate. The problem is there are thousands of lawyers in your city or state who do good work. Client development is a contact sport. It is about building relationships and adding value beyond the good work
- I’m “too young, and inexperienced to…” You are never too young to start learning client development skills. You may not bring in business right away, but that is ok. This is a marathon not a sprint, you are building towards doing so later. If you wait until you are a partner to start making the efforts, you may have the same learning curve.
- You have to be an extravert and know how to work a room. I know lawyers who are very outgoing and do poorly because they talk about themselves and do not listen. I know introverted lawyers who ask great questions and listen who do very well.
- You have to “ask” for business. Some lawyers are good at asking for business. Others who ask come across as needy or greedy. I was never comfortable asking for business. Instead, I tried to be the “go to” lawyer who would be sought by clients in my target market.
- Associates in big firms do not need to learn client development. At the very least, associates in big firms with institutional clients need to learn about those clients and find ways to become more valuable to those clients. In the current economy institutional clients are no longer loyal and they are looking more for value in their outside legal expenditure. As a result, learning the skills to get new clients is more important today than before.
I shared much more with the associates I coached. If you are interested, you can find some of my thoughts in my e-book: Client Development in a Nutshell.