Last week I published: How to Find Client Problems, Opportunities and Changes. A lawyer I coached yesterday asked me to give examples of how I used this concept.

When I practiced construction law, I focused on being “first to market.” I wanted to figure out what the future held for my clients and write and speak about the future before other lawyers did. Here are three examples:

  • In early 1983, I read about Congress setting a requirement in the Surface Transportation Act that 10% of the funds had to be spent with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. I wrote and made presentations about minority/disadvantaged business enterprise legal issues.
  • Later in the 80s, I learned that every complicated bridge project had costly construction time and cost overruns.  I built a library on bridge design and construction. Then, I wrote and made presentations about cable-stayed and segmental bridge design and construction and why every project had cost overruns
  • In the early 90s, I read that the USDOT had convinced Congress to try “experimental projects” including Design-Build. This was called SEP-14.  I wrote a Guide and articles and made presentations about design-build and public-private funding of highway construction.
  • After Enron and WorldCom cases, there was ENR magazine article on DOJ investigating the construction industry. I wrote and made presentations about the importance of business ethics for contractors

How did I figure out what was going on? I read industry magazines and attended construction industry meetings. Each of the legal issues above, started as industry business news. I was able to take the business news and see the legal implications.

Here is something you should do if you haven’t already: Do a Google search for “the future of…your clients’ industry.” When I did it for construction, I came across an address given by Dr. James M. Turner titled: The Future of Construction: Getting the U.S. There First. In the address, Dr. Turner said this:

Symptoms of Decaying Civil Infrastructure

Here are some symptoms of this national problem. The collective toll is tremendous, and it is mounting.

  • Poor road conditions cost U.S. motorists $54 billion a year in repairs and operating costs.
  • More than one-third of the nation’s 600,000 bridges are rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • Nationwide, we lose about 15 percent of our treated drinking water—6 billion gallons a day—to leaky pipelines.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that an investment of $1.6 trillion is required to bring the nation’s infrastructure to a good condition.

As a construction lawyer, what would I take away from that? I would focus on bridge construction. pipeline construction and the broader infrastructure where $1.6 trillion will likely be spent over the next several years.

If I can be successful using this important client development strategy, so can you. Do you know what the future holds for your clients’ industry? If so, do what I did and be first to market with the help your clients will need.