A friend of mine reminded me of a riddle:

When was the last time a lawyer could be successful in a law firm without having clients?

His response was:

When Houston had a football team called the Houston Oilers.

Having watched the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Houston team that moved to Tennessee, I could have said: The last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. That was actually the year before the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

I recently discovered that several of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on recruiting associates. I am reposting this blog with some edits to update for those recruiters and the associates with whom they work. But, if you are a law firm associate this is also for you, and if you work with associates, I hope you will share it with them.

If you read the entire post, you will find that it includes slides from a presentation I did for senior associates and slides from a presentation I did for junior associates. I hope to also include handouts I gave for those presentations.

In a podcast interview with Dallas lawyer Tricia DeLeon, I asked: What is One Piece of Advice for Young Lawyers? When you listen you will hear her say “start your client development efforts now”. 

Are you an associate in your firm? Have you begun learning about client development and implementing what you are learning? Does your firm have a program on client development for associates?

Every partner I coach tells me they wish I had coached them earlier in their career. The time to learn, to practice and to ramp up client development activities is significant. By the time you are eligible to be promoted to partner, your firm leaders expect you to have the skills to attain, retain and expand relationships with clients.

I gave presentations for Junior Associates and Senior Associates on client development. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Junior Associates for the Junior Associate slides. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Senior Associates for the Senior Associate slides. Here is the handout for Junior Associates.  Here is the handout for Senior Associates.

I am frequently asked for ideas for these two groups. Here are a few.

Junior Associates:

  • Focus on learning your legal skills
  • Treat your supervising partner like a client
  • Make a list of 50 people you know who you think will be successful in the future and stay in contact with them
  • Each time you work on a project do research on the client’s industry
  • Get to know client’s business by reviewing the company website and setting up Google Alerts on the client
  • Develop a system to remember names
  • Develop a plan with written goals
  • Send hand written notes to contacts
  • Dress for success

Senior Associates:

  • Find a client development mentor
  • If the firm has blogs, contribute posts
  • Practice public speaking in front of groups
  • Become visible in the firm
  • Visit other offices if your firm has more than one
  • Start to think about a niche
  • Find a sub niche within the niche
  • Consider working toward leadership positions in bar associations
  • Be a mentor for a junior lawyer
  • Join industry organizations your clients belong to and go to the meetings
  • Read industry publications your clients read
  • Create a business plan with goals
  • If it is appropriate to help develop your practice, be active in your community
  • Get outside your comfort zone

Law Firms: When was the last time your law firm did any kind of program to help associates get started on learning and practicing good client development habits?

Associates: Take my word, if you start learning client development skills now, you will enjoy your career more in the future. I did it and had a blast practicing law.

I love coaching senior associates. They are open minded and eager to learn.

Several years ago, one year before the big law firm recession in 2008, I coached 15 senior associates. When we began the group had generated around $600,000 of business the year before our work.

Two years later, they generated around $1,800,000, 3 times the first amount.

In this short video I share some ideas I went over with those senior associates. You might also find these slides helpful.

 

Yesterday, while I was in Atlanta, I made presentations to both junior associates and senior associates in a law firm. On Tuesday I wrote What Should Junior Associates Learn about Client Development? The meat of my post was actually in the video and presentation slides.

What should senior associates focus on? Again, the meat of my post will be in the video and presentation materials. I encourage you to watch the short video and open the presentation slides and go through them.

The starting point for senior associates should be to decide what they want to do with their career long term. I tell lawyers to think about their talent, passion and a client need. That will help them determine their long term goals.

Once senior associates know what they want to do, they should decide who is their target market and begin to become visible and credible to their target market. I share ideas on how to do that here.

My presentation yesterday was an updated version of Client Development in a Nutshell: What You Need to Learn and Practice for Long Term Success. As you will see, my presentation focuses on three main points:

  1. Planning and Using Time Wisely
  2. Visibility and Credibility
  3. Relationships and Getting Hired

I love coaching senior associates because they see possibilities in client development and work on them. If you are a senior associate, you are at a very important and exciting time of your career. It is time to take it to the next level. I hope the ideas here and in the linked presentation will help you do it. Let me hear from you if you have any questions.