I was coaching a group of lawyers for the last time recently. At the end of our group meeting, the group’s leader asked for a good summary of what we had covered. I shared this blog post with the group and thought you might find it valuable.

I read a recent survey report of large (big law) firms. There was one survey question that really got my attention:

How important is business development to success in a law firm?

Here was the answer:

 A lawyer’s ability to generate business is the single most determinative factor in whether a lawyer will become an equity partner.

That certainly was no surprise. In fact, I thought that was kind of a Duh question and it certainly does not just apply to lawyers in large law firms.

I know how to develop business. I did it and many lawyers I have coached or who worked for me are doing it. If you want to learn, I want to help you. I urge you to learn how to:

  1. Motivate yourself to learn and attract clients
  2. Figure out and adopt attributes of successful lawyers/people that will work best for you
  3. Define what success means to you by figuring out what you want to achieve in your career and life
  4. Set stretch goals
  5. Prepare a detailed action plan to achieve goals
  6. Determine what learning will provide you with the greatest return on your time
  7. Determine what kind of client development efforts will best work for you
  8. Make time for client development when you are busy with billable work and have a family
  9. Get organized for a more productive day
  10. Hold yourself accountable for client development activities
  11. Best get outside your comfort zone to take your practice up a notch
  12. Be patient and persist when you are not seeing results
  13. Raise your visibility and credibility-Building Profile
  14. What organizations will be best for you
  15. Write an article, or blog post: picking the topic, how long, title, opening, closing
  16. Give a presentation: picking the topic, getting the opportunity, homework before the presentation, PowerPoint, opening, format, speaking skills, handout
  17. Use social media: blogging for business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,
  18. Build relationships with referral sources so they recommend you
  19. Network at events
  20. Determine what are your best sources of business
  21. Focus on Contacts (Client relationship management)
  22. Make pitches to clients who consider hiring you
  23. Make great first Impressions
  24. Clients Select: importance of website bio, relationships, recommendations, strength of weak ties, building trust and rapport, developing questions, listening skills and how to ask for business
  25. Provide extraordinary client service and cross-sell: what clients want, how to deliver it, ways to add value, cross-selling planning
  26. Develop your the team: leadership, team building, motivating younger lawyers, supervision and feedback

What else can I do to help you?


It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.

Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.

I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.

As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.

Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.

Years ago, I coached a lawyer who was writing an ERISA Law Blog. In one of our coaching sessions he explained.

I enjoy writing the blog, but my target clients are not finding it. The only calls I have received are from employees.

I looked at the blog. At the time he was essentially reporting the ERISA news. I couldn’t tell from his posts that he represented employers. He had not targeted his readers and picked topics he hoped would bring them to him.

As some of you know, I began writing a column in Roads and Bridges magazine in the early 80s. I purposely named the column: Law: The Contractor’s Side. Here is a column I wrote in 2000: The ‘ripple effect’ of change orders.

My target readers were contractors and in the linked column I wanted to demonstrate my understanding and expertise of the ripple effect of change orders in the hope I would be top of mind if a contractor faced that issue.

Writing strategically to reach and intended target reader is one topic I will address in a webinar I am presenting on August 25 for MyCase. The title is Build Your Practice Through Blogging. Click on the title and you can sign up for it.

If you are a blogger and don’t feel your posts are attracting clients or referral sources, I urge you to take the hour on the 25th and learn how to start blogging more strategically and take a look at my Social Media Blogging eBook.

Blogging Tips

I tell lawyers I coach that with each blog, they should:

  1. Identify the intended reader-potential clients, shares, SEO.
  2. Figure out why that reader cares about the topic
  3. Decide what they want the reader to take away from the blog post
  4. Decide what they want the reader to think about them or their firm

Ok, once you have figured out those things, you are ready to draft. Start with a great, “google searchable” headline. You want to choose one that potential clients will find if they did a search of the legal topic.

Second, write a great first line. Think like a journalist. Don’t bury the lead.

Third, write short paragraphs. You want to have a lot of white space to make your blog easy to read on line.

Fourth, include a visual. There are many places where you can find free photographs that do not require attribution. One source I use is Pexels.

When you finish your first draft, look and see if you can shorten the post. Take out any fluff or unnecessary words.

After you post your blog, use Buffer  or Hootsuite to deliver it to your social media sites at the time you think would be most likely read. (I say around 1-2 in the afternoon Central Time is not bad.)

If you want to learn more about getting readers to your blog, I found: 39 Top Bloggers Reveal How They Get More Blog Traffic. Which one do you think would get you potential clients and referral sources readers?

I am frequently asked by lawyers I am coaching for marketing tools for their tool kit. Here is my Top 25 list of tools I have shared with them:

Toolkit 2015

  1. Your plan – it is not the plan itself that is so important as the planning that goes into it. Time is a precious asset. Planning will help you use it wisely.
  2. StrengthsFinderKnowing your top 5 Strengths will enable you to use your time most effectively.
  3. 90 Days Actions Breaking your plan down into 90 days or 30 days makes it easier to get things done.
  4. Accountability Partner– Having an accountability partner helps you stay on task.
  5. A Journal-Keeping a journal is another way to be accountable and it helps you figure out what is working for you.
  6. Google Alerts, Twitter, Flipboard, Zite – all tools you can use to bring information about your clients, their industry and law impacting them to you.
  7. Blogging-One of the easiest and most effective ways to create a trust based conversation with clients and potential clients.
  8. Buffer and Hootsuite-Tools you can use to disseminate the content you create all in one place.
  9. PreziGreat new tool to create presentations.
  10. LinkedIn-Confident that you know about this tool by now.
  11. Google Plus-I read that it is the second largest social media network in the world. I understand if you post your blog on Google Plus you get a boost in Google search for 24 hours.
  12. Your Target Market – I coined a phrase “if you market to everyone you market to no one”. One of the biggest changes in my legal career has been the move to more specialization. Seek to become the “go to” lawyer for a narrow market.
  13. Slideshare-The tool to upload your presentations and then make them available on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
  14. Monarch stationary and/or cards – In social media, email and text era, handwritten notes are more important than ever. I had both firm ones and personal ones.
  15. Your website bio – clients look at this. Is your photo current and are you happy with it? Can a client download articles you have written or presentations you have given. Update often.
  16. Industry Publications– find out what your clients read and subscribe (e.g. All my construction clients read Engineering News Record).
  17. “Getting Things Done” – a book by David Allen that will provide ideas for you to save time. (I actually saw wood on the top of my desk for the first time in 20 years.)
  18. Youtube – If a professional shoots video of you presenting, edit it into short segments and upload to Youtube.
  19. Podcasts – take what you have written and record it into a podcast. Also consider interviewing thought leaders for your podcast.
  20. Your Elevator speech and Your Elevator Questions – you will inevitably be asked what you do. Have several answers on the tip of your tongue. Don’t just say I am a litigator. It is also important for other lawyers in your firm to have a clear idea of what you do so they can think how you might help their clients. Have elevator questions ready because, being candid, people do not care about what you do and they love to tell you what they do.
  21. Listening skills – this is the most important and most overlooked skill for us. Most lawyers are already thinking about how they will respond while their client or contact is talking. Learn to listen. Here are 10 Steps to Effective Listening
  22. Remembering names – Really important. Why are we so bad at it? (See 15 above). Here are 10 Simple Tricks to Remembering Names
  23. Focused Contacts– Joyce created an Excel Spreadsheet that enabled me to rank my contacts three ways so I focus on the most important ones. Read: Want to be More Focused About Your Contacts
  24. Follow up – many lawyers lose out on opportunities by not following up.
  25. Holiday cards-have become a modern day version of spam. Make yours unexpected and unique.

Do you have songs that you hear and then can’t get out of your head?

I do and one of them is Waylon Jennings song “Are you sure Hank done it this way” out of my head. I sing it until Nancy asks I find another tune. If you never heard of it, you can watch and listen here:

What is Waylon saying? He is criticizing the more contemporary country singers from the 70s with their rhinestone suits and new fancy cars.

Somebody told me when I got to Nashville
Son you finally got it made
Old Hank made it here, we’re all sure that you will
But I don’t think Hank done it this way
I don’t think Hank done it this way

Are you waiting to figure out how I can connect this to practicing law?

If you are a regular reader you know that I am a strong advocate of blogging and social media. I would use both tools to build relationships if I was still practicing law. But, I would also get up from my computer and build relationships the old fashioned way.

I began my practice in a city of 100,000 people. If you are practicing in a city that size or in a smaller town where everyone knows everyone, you want to be visibly active in the community. You should consider being active in the Bar and being active  in local charities and community organizations.

If, you are in a larger city, especially one where people leave the city and go home to a variety of different suburbs, it is more difficult to be involved in a community organization. After all, when your work day is done, you want to go home and be with the family. I have known lawyers who have been active, but they are the exception, not the rule.

I know several lawyers in big cities who have raised their visibility by being active in the Bar. I also know lawyers in big cities who have raised their visibility by being a leader in their college alumni association. I am a Virginia Tech grad and we have a very active alumni group in Dallas. if I was 40 years younger, I am sure I would be actively participating.

I believe it is more important in a big city to  find a niche that suits your talents, passions and client needs. The best thing I ever did was go from commercial litigation to government contracts to construction contracts to transportation construction contracts. Each time I narrowed my focus I was better positioned to discover client needs and write and speak about them.

So,  even if you are using social media as a tool, you should find other ways to become visible and credible to a more narrow target market. Get involved in something you are passionate about. Write articles, speak at industry meetings and create valuable guides are three additional ways to do it.

I don’t think Hank done it that way. Neither Hank nor Waylon needed social media as a tool to build their fan base. Even contemporary country singers who use social media use the old fashioned tools to reach out to fans.

You should keep using those old fashioned tools also. Make a list of tools and create a plan to use them.

We are having a coaching session today and you have told me you want to raise your visibility and credibility to your target market and you want me to help you figure out what skills to work on.

Photos of Chicago by Jim Roberts my Glenbard East High School Classmate

Here are some things we would go over in your coaching sessions:

Writing and Speaking for Business Development Skills

  1. How to write an article that will be valuable to potential clients
    1. Picking the topic (Share with my 3 potential topics)
    2. How long (We talk about who is your reader and what publication)
    3. Title (If a potential client did a Google search would they find your article?)
    4. Opening (You have to get their attention right away. Does your opening sentence/paragraph cause me to want to read more?)
    5. Closing (What are your takeaways for your reader?)
    6. Style (Is your article for lawyers, businessmen and women?)
  2. How to give a compelling presentation
    1. Topic: (Your listeners only care about their problems, opportunities and changes.)
    2. How to Get the opportunity: (Writing leads to speaking)
    3. Homework to do before the presentation: (Who is the audience, how many will attend, what is before and after your presentation, what is the layout of the room?)
    4. Slides with visuals rather than bullet points: (We would eliminate bullet point slides with only words)
    5. Interesting opening: (We may spend more time on your opening than any other part of the presentation. You have at most 90 seconds to capture your audience and answer their question: “What’s in this for me?
    6. Format: (Not linear, instead: problem and solution.)
    7. Closing: (The call to action. Like a rock concert, you need the audience wanting to hear more from you.)
    8. Speaking skills: (Posture, voice, gestures, eye contact, connecting with the audience.)
    9. Handout: (What to include and when to provide.)
    10. Engaging the audience: (Approaches including asking questions.)
    11. Effective follow up after the presentation: (Creating a reason to follow up.)
  3. How to use blogging and social media as a tool
    1. Blogging for business-(Title, length, tone)
    2. LinkedIn-(Profile, Groups)
    3. Facebook-(How to use it for business and how to best stay in touch with weak ties)
    4. Twitter-(How to use it to listen, engage and build visibility)
    5. Webinars and Podcasts-(Topics, how to create and get an audience)
Every world class PGA golfer has a coach. See the Washington Post article: PGA golfers have come to depend on swing coaches.
If the greatest golfers in the world think there is value in having a coach watch their swing, it might be valuable for lawyers to have a coach read their article, watch them present and read their blog, and in each case offer feedback.  Are you getting any feedback or just shooting from the hip?






LexBlog’s Kevin McKeown is both a great friend and a wonderful source of information. Whenever we are together I feel like I learn something from him. I asked Kevin to share his thoughts with you.

As a lawyer, your digital footprint should create a positive first impression or chances are you’re toast. And, if you don’t have any “toehold” online then your toast is burnt.


These days all client and potential clients can be reached via social media and social networking channels. In fact, 98% of business decision-makers read blogswatch peer videos, and listen to podcasts. In the legal vertical as an example, 74% of in-house counsel say they use social media in listen-mode only.

If you’re not online driving your agenda someone else is…

Today, the Internet (online, digital, social) plays a big part in how the word-of-mouth engine works. Consider:

  • 81% of all potential clients are going online to check out professional services firm during the buying process
  • Four out of five buyers change their minds about purchasing based solely on negative online information
  • 87% of buyers say that a positive online review influences their buying decision to make a purchase

That should be no surprise if you’re paying attention to the world around you:

Today’s buyers are increasingly sophisticated. While getting a referral from a trusted friend might start the ball rolling, the [potential client] will go home and do some more research. They will probably give your website a drive-by. Maybe read a few blog posts and look to see if you’re active on their social channels. They’ll even spend a few minutes on Google to see what pops up about your firm—positive or negative.  —Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D.

Because of the power of word-of-mouth, your clients have the potential to influence others to retain – or not to retain – your services. Positive and negative reviews certainly sway opinions about your law practice but so does sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. And frankly, I’m not sure what’s worse: losing a potential client to a negative review or losing that potential client because they couldn’t find any information about you online.

Don’t be conspicuous by your absence.

So, how do you avoid the toaster?

  1. Develop a business development plan AND execute (Cordell is a master coach).
  2. Decide how you want to be viewed online (present yourself accordingly).
  3. Demonstrate your passion and authority through your writing (blogging).
  4. Make sure your content narrative complements and leverages your other BD efforts.
  5. Know your client’s industry cold (cultivating expert-level influence takes time).

Waiting for work to come in the door is no fun. Don’t be that lawyer wishing for a positive online review. Having a well-structured online content strategy online is critical to your success.

How is the Internet changing the way you do your business development? I’d love your thoughts on this. You can leave a comment below, email me, or catch me on Twitter at @kevinmckeown.

About the Author

Kevin McKeown is empowering 8,000 lawyers to network through the Internet as LexBlog’s President. The LexBlog Network is the largest professional blog network in the world. Kevin’s career spans 27+ years. He’s a veteran of Mitsubishi International Corporation and other emerging technology/Internet companies. Kevin is also an Attorney licensed in two states and a former federal law clerk. His blog, LeadershipCloseUp, is about the collision of social networking, leadership and the business of relationships.


A lawyer recently asked me how I would use LinkedIn if I was still practicing law. If you are a regular reader, you know that I contend the principles of client development have not changed.

As you will see:

  • You have to be visible, meaning people need to know who you are
  • You have to be credible, meaning people need to know what you do and that you do it well
  • That leads to “weak tie” relationships
  • Those “weak tie” relationships lead to recommendations
  • Then you have a meeting with the potential client
  • Your success at that point depends on building trust and rapport with the potential client, who is asking himself: Can I trust this lawyer to handle this matter? and What is it going to be like to work with this lawyer?

It is really important to note that in 2013, after you have been recommended, a potential client will now:

  • Look at your website bio
  • Do a “Google” search of you
  • Do a “Google” search of the legal topic

So, if I was practicing law, how would I use LinkedIn? I would:

  • Have a complete profile including a good photo
  • Link to client representatives and referral sources
  • Link to business contacts I meet
  • Link to my colleagues and former colleagues
  • Look up and Link with people I meet at an event
  • Use the advanced search tool to find other business connections and link to them
  • Post my blog on my LinkedIn page
  • Start a group (In my case it would be highway construction) and/or be part of a group and post my blog in those groups
  • Scroll down the LinkedIn page one or two times a day looking for something interesting and either comment or share the content
  • Add Slideshare to my LinkedIn page and put my presentations there

Try some of my suggestions and start getting value out of LinkedIn.

Client development is a contact sport. Don’t just rely on email and social media to stay in touch. You actually have to get up from your computer and meet with your clients and referral sources. Here are some tips:

  1. businessman boxing.jpgBe purposeful about staying in touch with your contacts. You should not just have random lunches with clients and referral sources when you can’t find anyone in your office with whom to dine.
  2. When reaching out to a contact, ask yourself if the contact will find value in the contact rather than perceive you as trying to sell your services. If they think you are inviting them to lunch to hustle their legal business they will find a reason not to have the lunch.
  3. Ask questions when you are with contacts and listen intently.
  4. Find a thoughtful way to follow up after you meet with them based on something they said during the meeting. If you can’t think of anything else, send a handwritten note.

P.S. I frequently followed up with a contact by sending a book on a subject they had mentioned during our meeting. If you tell me the subject, I will be happy to share my ideas on books to send.

As you may know, this week I have crossed the country teaching lawyers about blogging and social media. Yesterday, I received a most interesting question:

If our firm decides not to blog and not use social media, in five years will we be behind our competitors?

I thought that was a great question. Lawyers and firms are reluctant to make changes. I responded by asking:

Suppose your firm had decided not to have a website, or not to use email when both became available. In five years would you have been behind your competitors?

I have written about the importance of being innovative and the importance of getting outside your comfort zone and continuing to learn and make changes. As a coach, I love to watch the lawyers I coach make changes in what they are doing and see results from those changes. In my last Practical Lawyer Column I re-told Alison’s Story:Practical Advice On Developing A Niche Practice.

Nicole Snyder.jpgNicole Snyder is a Holland and Hart lawyer I coached. In my podcast interview with her, Nicole describes herself as a skeptic going into the coaching. If you do not have time to listen to the entire interview, listen to Nicole Snyder Coaching Program Changes to hear about changes Nicole made.

As a lawyer, you will become more successful when, even when you are skeptical, you have an open mind to making changes. What changes are you making this year?