A Guide to Business Development For Lawyers
There should be little doubt in your mind that business development is a critical component of your law practice. Without a solid and well-reasoned business development plan, you will likely spend a significant amount of time thinking about where your next client will come from as opposed to meeting with that client and procuring their business.
It’s worth considering how important your obsessive or compulsive worrying can be in motivating you to ensure that your law firm’s business development plans are effective. Moreover, it’s equally worthwhile to understand how your worrying may be causing analysis paralysis in creating and implementing a business development plan for your practice.
Now, before you begin chewing your fingernails and start frantically clicking your pen, consider some of the following business development ideas:
Be About More than You.
It is unfortunate for many clients that they have to discover how much lawyers love to talk about themselves. In fact, when given a chance to speak to a potential client, many lawyers are oblivious to social clues and suggestions that other people do not want to hear about the lawyer’s legal experience, where they went to law school or what cases they are working on.
I think we can agree that where you went to law school, your practice areas and years of experience are important to the overall process, but this information is not nearly as important as engaging and speaking to the client to understand who they are and what they need.
As such, it is important to remember when implementing your business development plan that your prospective clients are actual people. And people have stories to tell and information to share. Once you have heard what the client has to say and you’ve discovered some information about their particular issues, you may be able to start shifting the conversation into who you are and what you may be able to do.
Listen Twice as Much as You Talk.
If you have ever been to a bar association function, you will likely agree that lawyers are terrible listeners. In fact, lawyers are often so eager to talk about what they know to be true that they forego the entire process of listening when engaging in conversation. However, the importance of listening is that it sharpens your ability to understand what the client may need. Additionally, by allowing that potential client to tell their story you may gain a better overall understanding of what issues the client is facing, and you may be communicating to the client that their issues are important enough to you for you to listen to.
Read Between the Lines.
It is not uncommon for certain kinds of clients to reveal their true motives for hiring a lawyer after a lawsuit has been filed or after some additional facts are revealed. Unfortunately, when a client has an ulterior motive, it is often the attorney that suffers the consequences of those motives, especially in contingency fee cases. As such, it is important to do your best to gain a genuine and thorough understanding of the client and their intentions before you offer the retainer agreement and representation.
While I am sure you have heard the expression that actions speak louder than words, it’s hard to imagine that almost 93 percent of communication is nonverbal. Moreover, the most subtle gestures and behaviors can have a significant impact on what clients think and how they behave.
If you plan on making personal consultations a significant part of your business development plan, you may wish to consider and evaluate how you and your staff appear in the eyes of your would-be clients. Additionally, you may wish to go so far as speaking to a consultant who will come to your office and interact with your staff as a “prospective client” in order to gain a better understanding. As such, be mindful of what you say and do, as clients are every observant and are almost certainly quick to judge.
While these recommendations are simple, they are often overlooked by lawyers who are seeking to create an effective business development plan. Moreover, consider practicing each of these recommendations to improve client communications and business development.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h