Put simply business development doesn’t work because it is focused on what is in it for the law firm or the lawyer rather than what is in it for the client.

If you are like most lawyers, including me, you are uncomfortable with “selling” yourself or your firm to a client.  I might have  chosen the word “hustling” clients, to express what you feel you are doing. You also know that potential clients do not want to be “sold.” You might have been told:

  • You need to “get out there” more.
  • You need to get more work from existing clients.
  • You need to take more contacts to lunch.

That may seem like a numbers game. It may also seem like your hand is always out looking for something.

Have you ever considered the definition of business development?

 Business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities.

You see the problem is that BD is about selling tasks and processes.

When you engage in client development, instead of selling, you are focused on building trust and rapport. Instead of  focusing on the numbers, or on the process, you are focused on serving, finding ways to add value and genuinely putting the clients’ interest ahead of my own. You do not have to be that person you prefer not to be.

So, what is the takeaway? Stop doing random business development (BD) activities that make you uncomfortable and start doing activities that your clients and potential clients will value. I will leave you with a Seth Godin point that speaks to how clients decide to hire lawyers and law firms:

People don’t believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.

To engage in client development, work on becoming the lawyer or law firm that is recommended, and work on building trust and rapport with your potential clients.