Our neighbors across the street were on vacation for spring break. We were getting their mail and any packages left on their doorstep. One night they called to ask if a box had been delivered and we went over and found it.

When they got back home, they came over to get the mail and packages and it turned out the box included several bottles of Cakebread wine. That week their company hosted a virtual wine tasting on Zoom with a member of the Cakebread family discussing each bottle of wine.

I believe what made the event unique and special was having a member of the family talk about the wine. I say this in part because a lawyer I coached told me last month he didn’t want to participate in another virtual wine tasting event.

Back in September of last year, Seth Godin wrote a blog titled:  A New Normal. In February Godin wrote: Tilting at Windmills. I especially liked the last sentence where he said:

Every normal is a new normal, until it is replaced by another one.

I could tell you what the new normal in client development was 20 years ago. One example is that law firms had finally developed websites.  Those of you who were practicing then, can think about what it was like in 2001 what is no longer normal in 2021.

In 2021 I believe you have to figure out what is important to each individual client to know, why it is important for that client and how can you best communicate it to that specific client.

Have you heard of individualization marketing? If not take a look at this discussion: Marketing evolution: From personalization to individualization.

 

To accomplish the what, why and how, what is the new normal for lawyers? I believe in 2021, you must:

  1. Narrow your market of potential clients and become visible and credible to them.
  2. Know your clients’ industry, business and the client representative’s special needs.
  3. In 2021 it is more important than ever to anticipate client problems, opportunities and changes resulting from COVID, the 2020 election and other new issues or changes  before other lawyers and even before your clients.
  4. When you successfully anticipate a legal issue that will impact your clients figure out how your clients can best deal with the legal issue and blog or create an on-line program to share your knowledge.
  5. If you or your firm is doing any kind of virtual client development event, make it unique and special.
  6. Find new ways to personalize any client development activities by knowing the needs of each individual client.
  7. Discover what each individual client believes is extraordinary service and deliver that and more.

I published many of these tips years ago and decided it was worth bringing it back now.

When I coached groups of lawyers at law firms, I shared with the lawyers ideas I wish someone had told me when I was a young lawyer. Here are some of those tips.

  1. Create goals and actions to achieve the goals-It’s fine to create end result goals, but don’t stop there. Create action plans.
  2. Breakdown your action plan-Create 90 days or monthly action plans. Lawyers who prepare a business plan for the year tend to put it in their desk and don’t look at it again.
  3.  Plan and schedule client development activities each week-Decide what you plan to do, estimate how much time it will take and then schedule it on your calendar
  4. Keep a client development journal-Keeping track makes it more likely you will actually do the activities and it will enable you to figure out what was the best use of your time.
  5.  Have a client development partner-Like a workout partner, a client development partner makes it more likely you will do the activities.
  6. Join industry and/or community associations/organizations and seek leadership positions and speaking opportunities-Join just a few organizations and become visible by leading or speaking.
  7. Stay in contact-Use multiple means (notes, calls, lunches, coffee, blogs, email, LinkedIn).
  8.  Conduct workshops and seminars for clients-(Get CLE credit if doing it for in-house lawyers)
  9.  Put links to published articles on your website bio-You want perspective clients to read what you have written
  10.  Create a blog-Blog posts are easier to write and more timely than writing articles that are published weeks or months later.
  11. Create a guide-This can be a handout at industry presentations. Make it short and concise.
  12. Create video and post to YouTube-If you are creating a program for clients hire a videographer to shoot video and then post it.
  13.  Read what your clients read-Find out their industry publications and subscribe to them
  14.  Identify referral sources-Referral Sources expand your network to perspective clients
  15. Write thank you notes-Let clients know you appreciate the opportunity to serve them.
  16. Get to know assistants-A client representative’s assistant can be a great source of goodwill.
  17. Joint venture programs with client representatives-They will enjoy being asked and working together will help build the relationship
  18. Become involved in your clients’ favorite charities-This is another way to build the relationship and let the client know you care about what is important to them.
  19. Return phone calls and emails promptly-Clients do not want to wait.
  20. Build database of information on your clients including spouse’s name, children’s names and ages, hobbies etc.-This helps you find reasons to be in contact with clients. I used an excel spreadsheet
  21. Go to events you would rather skip-You never know where you will run into opportunities.
  22.  Have your elevator speech ready-Create several so you can use the appropriate one
  23.  Have your elevator questions ready-People want you to be interested more than they want you to be interesting.
  24. Call, email and write clients-Just to see how they are doing
  25. Do something no matter how small each and every day-Make a list of potential things you can do each and every day.
  26. Read books about sales, service and relationship building-Figure out how other businesses do it effectively by reading about them. Tell me a topic of interest, I will suggest a book for you.

When I was young, we couldn’t afford the best. So frequently I bought something that wasn’t the best.

When I was in the US Air Force trying government contract cases, we received $25 a day for a hotel and meals in Washington, D.C. Even back then, we could not stay in a hotel for $25, much less have money for meals. So, we stayed in a no-tell motel on Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria. I vowed then to never stay in that kind of hotel again.

Ok, here is a list of some things and services I buy because I think they are the best:

  1. Caffè Latte from Starbucks (I recently had a latte from another coffee company and did not recognize the taste)
  2. Mac computers and iAnything from Apple
  3. Hotel stays at Ritz Carlton, with special emphasis on the Club Level
  4.  Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet from Heitz Cellar winery. (The first fine wine I ever drank was from Heitz Cellar. We bought a bottle to celebrate our 50th anniversary last year.
  5. Central Market Nancy and I shop at Central Market because we think they have by far the best produce in Dallas-Fort Worth.

I could go on with more favorites, but I think you get the idea.

Seth Godin posted a really interesting blog a few years ago. The title was It’s Just Better Ketchup. He said that in a discussion of why Heinz Ketchup has such a large market share in Pittsburgh, one commentator said: “It’s just better ketchup… When you go to a restaurant and they have a different kind, it feels you are eating at some cheap cafeteria.”

I  found the quote interesting because I feel the same way when I go to a restaurant that does not have Heinz Ketchup. I urge you to read the blog post. You will see that Seth Godin says our attachment to a product, and I would add a lawyer or law firm, is not necessarily because the product is the really the best.

Why am I attached to the products and services listed above? It is because I trust the quality of what I am getting and I value the relationship. So, whether or not the provider is actually “the best,” they are the best for me.

“She is just a better lawyer or that firm is just a better law firm?”

Do your clients have a good reason to say that about you or your law firm? They will if they believe you are the “go to” lawyer in your field and they trust the quality of your service and value the relationship with you.

Is your law firm finding ways to market your junior partners?

I loved coaching those partners because I believed they had the greatest opportunity to double or triple the amount of business they brought in to their firms.

When I met with junior partners, or even associates in a law firm for the first time, I had the group set a group goal. One of the first groups I coached set a group goal of doubling the volume of business they originated in two years. Needless to say the firm leaders were ecstatic when the group actually tripled the amount of business they originated. Many of those lawyers are top rainmakers in their firm today.

Your junior partners can find the same kind of success if you put together a group of them and follow the ideas on coaching I have expressed in this blog over many years.

Why would it be possible to accomplish this in 2021? Here is one reason to consider.

If you are a long time reader you know I found Robert Cialdini’s ideas very helpful. He, along with others, wrote  Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

The 7th scientifically proven way was titled:

“How can a new superior product mean more sales of an inferior one?”

The authors describe that Williams-Sonoma started offering a bread-making machine that was far superior to a best-selling bread maker that they stocked. Yet, when they added this new product to their inventory, sales of their existing best-seller nearly doubled. Why?

Put simply, consumers favor compromise choices between the most and least expensive. Don’t you do that when you pick a hotel room? I rarely if ever pick the most expensive room or pick the least expensive room.

I realize there are some “bet the company” legal matters where the hourly rate of the lawyer doesn’t matter. But, many business clients are trying to reduce outside legal fees.

While in the past they may have wanted your senior partner. Today, one of your more junior partners may be able to do the same work effectively.  Is your firm marketing those junior partners. Further, do your junior partners have a business plan? Are they making the efforts to market themselves?

Years ago I heard a quote attributed to several college coaches, including Bear Bryant and Bobby Knight.

Many have the will to win, but few have the will to prepare to win.

I liked the quote so much that in 2007 I wrote a book titled: Prepare to Win.

So, what does it take to prepare to win? In my book I suggested it begins with some self examination. For some of you I’m sure that may seem touchy-feely. I understand. Early in my career if someone had asked me to do a self-examination it wouldn’t have gone well.

But, if you are open to it now, answer these questions for yourself.

  1. What is your career purpose?
  2. How does the work you do benefit your clients or your community?
  3. What is your life purpose?
  4. Are your career purpose and life purpose aligned? If not, what are your priorities?

To further understand your work purpose, think of it as the intersection of your talent, your passion and clients who need your help. Answer these questions:

  1. What is my greatest talent? (You’ve got to be able to become a or the “go to” lawyer in your niche practice.)
  2. What am I most passionate about? (If you don’t have the passion you won’t have the will to prepare to succeed.)
  3. Are their clients who need my talent, and if so who are those clients? (If no one needs what you are talented at doing and enjoy the most, you’ve got to move on.)

Next, focus on creating your vision of success.

  1. Where do I see myself in one, five, or ten years?
  2. What is my vision of success?
  3. Why is achieving this vision of success important to me.

I will leave it there for you to start. If you answer each of the questions in this blog post you will have made the first step in preparing to win.

Over the many years that I mentored, taught and coached young lawyers, I wondered why it was so difficult to change and why young lawyers got discouraged so quickly when their client development efforts do not produce immediate results.

Over many years scientists have been studying how our brain affects our ability to make changes. Knowing that none of you have any time to study this, I thought I might give you a short lesson.

Do you remember when you were learning to drive. I bet you put a death grip on the wheel, paid way more attention to what you were doing, and if you were on a two lane road driving with your dad, he was scared to death you were going to plow down a row of mail boxes. Now, when you get into a car you do not even think about technique. You just do it.

What happened?

When you are learning something for the first time you are using your short term memory part of your brain. It requires significantly more energy and is able to hold fewer ideas. Also, just trying to change what we are doing sends out a strong message that something isn’t right and brings on anxiety and stress.

Ok, so now you may understand why change is difficult and why you may easily get discouraged. What can you do about it?

Learn client development in bite sized pieces and implement what you are learning until it becomes part of your habits. Your goal should be to get client development from your short term memory to the hard wired part of your brain.

How can you accomplish this?

  • Start with what you want to accomplish long term and why it is important to you.
  • Set a time period. Let’s say five years from now and an end result goal on where you want to be then.
  • Create a 2021 Business Plan that is based at least in part to what you want to accomplish this year to get you on the right course for your five year goal.
  • Create quarterly or monthly action plans and measure how you are doing towards your one year plan goals
  • Create a weekly action plan and share it with your husband or wife, your friend, your mentor or someone who will hold you accountable.
  • Grade yourself each week on how you did on the actions in weekly plan and create an action plan for the following week
  • Plan what actions you want to take each day

That approach, my friend, will break down your efforts into bite sized pieces. What do you want to learn next? What actions do you want to take next?

 

 

I am reading a book on creative writing. Having practiced law for 38 years I need to exercise the right side of my brain.

Literally in the first chapter I saw two quotes that apply to your efforts on client development. The first I had not seen before. Ursula K. Le Guin said:

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.

Take a moment. Read it a couple of times. It is good for you to have an end result goal; but it is the actions you take each and every day that will matter in the end.

The second quote you likely have seen before. Woody Allen once said:

80% of success in life is just showing up.

In your client development efforts 80% of your success will be just doing something regularly to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

 

Are you a young litigator and not doing as well as you would like with client development? If so, do you likely fall into one, or more of these four categories:

  • You do great work, you’ve gotten or will get a Martindale A-V rating and you wait for the phone to ring.
  • You do not want to be “pigeon-holed.”
  • You are focused on “selling” what you do as a litigator.
  • You write or speak to other lawyers.

These approaches are ineffective for a variety of reasons.

First, everyone you compete against is selling the same thing-litigation. As a result, the only lawyers who can successfully  just wait for the phone to ring are the top “go to” litigators in your city, or lawyers who have big clients who are constantly in court.

Litigators who do not want to get “pigeon holed” either do not market at all, or they market to everyone. If you market to everyone, you essentially market to no one. You will be more successful narrowing the focus of your marketing efforts.

Litigators who are selling what they do tend to focus on clients who have an immediate need. They scour the docket sheets looking for companies that have been sued. When a friend casually mentions that his company has been sued, the first question from the lawyer is: “Has your company hired anyone to defend it yet?” Unfortunately, unless the company is already a client, they will be competing with lots of other talented lawyers.

 

Very few litigators will actually get work from writing and speaking to other lawyers. While it may build your reputation to speak at an ABA Annual Meeting or State Bar meetings, it will be challenging to get work from other lawyers. I know. I spoke at the ABA Annual Meeting in 1981 and I am still waiting for a call from a lawyer who saw me speak.

I encourage you to change your mindset. Narrow your focus and then become visible and credible to potential clients that are not looking for a lawyer now. Do your homework and think about their potential problems or changes they will face that may result in litigation.

How can you figure out what your will be an issue for your clients in the future? The best way is to keep up with the news and what is happening in your city, state, country and the world. Also keep up with what is going on in your client’s industry by reading trade publications and newsletters.

When you see something that might impact potential clients,  come up with a solution and write about it, or give a presentation. When you write or speak, you will likely be more successful if you focus on ways to avoid litigation.

 

What is client development coaching?

It is a program designed to help lawyers succeed in their efforts to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Why does it work?

Do you workout? If you are like me you achieve more when you have a fitness trainer pushing you. Client development coaching works the same way.

A client development coach helps lawyers set stretch goals, create action plans to achieve those goals and hold the lawyers accountable to make sure they take the actions they’ve planned.

Whether you have written them down or not, you have goals. It is just easier to keep track if you write them down.

Nearly every expert recommends writing down your goals – from once a year to several times during the year.  I recommend it also.

But it takes more than pen, paper (or a computer) and good thoughts to reach your goals.

You must also do something!

It may take more – or less – time than you thought to reach your goals, but one thing’s for certain: you will never reach them if you don’t take action.

Map.pngYour written goals are like a map – directions for traveling from Point A to Point B.  But you have to commit – and start driving – if you expect to reach your destination. How can you do that?

  • Tell your spouse, a colleague or friend what your goals are.
  • Report to that person regularly on what you have done.
  • Break down your goals into smaller actions.
  • Plan your actions for each week, estimate the time each action will take and put it on your calendar.
  • Keep a journal.

If you haven’t done this for 2021, please give the suggestions above a try.