Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Shotgun approach or strategic approach? That’s easy. Strategic. Don’t do what everyone else does (‘show up and throw up’). Look at building your profile from the client’s perspective first, then your own. Here’s how you can avoid the lacklustre results you get from a self-centred shotgun approach by being strategic about how you build your profile: First, be where your target market is; second, be relevant. How do you do that? Ask your current clients what events they attend and why. Ask them what they read and why. Ask them what content would be of value to them and why. Find out what’s missing. Then contact the associations and publications your target market attends and reads and ask them the same questions. This is a highly effective and strategic way of ensuring you are where your target market is and you’re relevant to them and their needs.
If you haven’t done this already, go out and see all of your key clients. Find out what they are worried about, what their current or immediate challenges are, and what they foresee as future challenges. What is going on in their day-to-day operations? Be genuinely interested in THEM. Here’s how it turned out for one of our clients: While on a call with a firm client, a junior lawyer learned of a pressing need. He communicated that need to his managing partner who immediately got on the phone with the client. Ten minutes later, at the client’s request, the managing partner met the client at this office and a few minutes after that, he secured a large mandate to help the client solve the problem the junior lawyer had learned about earlier that day. It can be THAT SIMPLE.
Get a pulse on what your clients are doing, what they need and how can you help them. To do that, you have to get out there and talk to them. The opportunity here is to create a value-based relationship. The impact of your social relationship with a client is important but will only get you so far, watch what happens when you create a value-based relationship. Business development isn’t always about getting new clients. There are opportunities with current clients. Go find them!
The Legal A Team is a newly formed alliance of legal marketers who have big firm experience with a focus on small firms and solo practice lawyers. As a Co-Founder, I’m pleased that we can offer the small to mid-sized law firms and solo practice lawyers the same level of expertise usually only found at the big firm level. We have assembled a team of experts who have worked for some of the biggest law firms in North America. We have a complete range of services: business development training, business development coaching, legal marketing and branding strategy, legal public relations, legal social media, and websites.
We know the demands of small-and mid-sized firms are great. An up until now, they haven’t had access to the same resources of larger firms. Finding the right coaching, training, marketing, and PR people for you and your firm while still running your practice and serving the needs of demanding clients is a huge challenge. Enter Legal A Team. Small firm focus. Big firm experience.™
If your firm is like the small firms I’ve worked with, you have a cohesive and happy team. If you follow the advice I’ve shared with you, it will only improve that culture of team and success; which is why you must be relentless when bringing on new talent.
First thing is you must ensure anyone coming on board will be open to business development. Moving forward that should be a part of the staff and lawyer profile you are looking for. This is one way you can ensure your firm will continue to grow.
Another thing to keep in mind is ‘fit’. One of my clients has his law clerks and associates do the initial interview. This gives them the opportunity to see if this person is someone that they would like to work with. After you’ve done such a good job creating a cohesive place to work, the last thing you want to do is upset the apple cart by bringing in a dud.
I can tell you one thing, if you have created a culture where people love to come to work, it won’t be as hard as you think to get more great people. There are a lot of unhappy and unengaged people in the legal industry that would jump at the chance to work for someone they respect, be a part of a team, be a part of growing your firm. And when you are selecting lawyers ask yourself if this is someone you think could become a partner one day? Which leads nicely into the next section.
A general rule of thumb I share with my clients is this. If your time is not focused on doing the work, generating the work, or managing your people and the work, then whatever tasks are taking up your time should be delegated to a non-fee earner. Do the Math. Look at your billable hour rate. Or look at what your time is worth if you work on contingency. Does it really make sense for you to be managing your IT, or Admin? Couldn’t you easily pay someone in the neighborhood of $25-$30 an hour to take over those tasks? Again, if you’re not doing the work, you’re not billing. If you’re not bringing in the work, you’re not growing your firm. And if you’re not managing the people and the work, there is more room for error.
The same goes for every other fee earner at your firm. If your law clerk is busy doing admin, that is non-billable time. You can’t expect your people to realistically hit or surpass their targets if they are engaged in work that is non-billable. You have a lot of money sitting on the table that could easily increase your bottom line. Always make sure your people are doing what is most valuable to your bottom line. Consider out-sourcing part of the lower-level work, or hire someone part-time if there isn’t enough for a full-time position. There is always a solution.
For the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk in the media about disruption in the legal market. I think it’s about time. I will keep this post short and offer you two very insightful references on disruption in the legal market.
The first link is to a six page article in the Globe and Mail
The second link is to a one day conference at Harvard Law School about disruption in the legal market.
These links will both provide you with valuable insights into how the industry is changing.
Another important consideration in becoming more targeted is whether ‘to niche or not to niche’. I mean becoming highly specialized in a certain area. There are certainly pro’s and con’s to creating a niche practice. If you do carve out a niche practice area it will allow you to target your audience more effectively. In becoming an expert in your field you will fully understand the needs of your audience. That’s a plus. The downside sometimes to having a niche practice is your audience will be smaller. There won’t be as many potential clients for you. So if you are going to niche, you’d better do a very good job of building your profile and becoming known at the ‘go-to-lawyer’ in this field.
If you stay broad in your focus, the upside will be that you will have a larger pool of clients to draw from. But I see several downsides. First, it is virtually impossible to market yourself and your services effectively over several markets. You won’t have the time to be everywhere at once. Depending on your practice area, by staying broadly focused it’s harder to become known as the go-to for every area you are practicing in. Consider what you really enjoy and what you’re good at. If there are complementary practice areas that go hand-in-hand and you enjoy all of them, maybe it makes sense for you to stay broadly focused.
The next step in becoming more targeted in your approach to business development is to take a look at your own values. What’s important to you? Over the years I worked with several lawyers who had to make a change. When I got in there and began coaching them, we determined that one of the reasons they weren’t excelling at business development was that their own values were not aligned with the people they were serving. And that goes for your firm as well. Are your values aligned with those of your firm?
If you’re not happy working for the people you are working for, or where you are working, there’s not much motivation to go out and get more clients of the same ilk. So consider what you value? What is important to you? Are your values and what you consider important aligned with your current clients? Are your values aligned with the firm you’re working at? If not, consider making a change for the long-term good of your career. If you’re just starting out, this is likely some advice you haven’t heard before and I highly advise you to take heed of it.
When I first started coaching lawyers, my professional colleagues said, “You’re going to do what with whom?” When you consider my target audience, you, lawyers, and your common personality traits and practice challenges, you are one tough audience and I thank you for being that way. I’ve always loved a challenge.You have forced me to become a better coach.
What follows are not criticisms, merely observations which I am sure most of you will agree with. For the most part lawyers hate the idea of sales. Some of you even resent the fact that in today’s legal market you have to sell and market yourself and your services. Many of you are introverted and hate networking. You are perfectionists which often prevents you from trying anything new for fear of failing. Being highly risk-averse adds to that fear. You procrastinate to a fault. You are highly intellectual and often over-think things. And to top that all off, it’s in your nature to be highly skeptical.
And then there are the challenges you face in your practice. You are under incredible pressure to produce, living your life and career in 6 minute increments. If it’s not the billable hour, then it’s your workload, and the constant struggle to find time for business development. Wow you are certainly one tough audience, wouldn’t you agree?
To effectively deal with these challenges, I’ve created a methodology for business development specifically for lawyers. It’s called TST™, Targeted, Strategic and Tactical. You must produce the best results in the least amount of time possible. The good news is that because you are so smart, you learn quickly. My next post will start to go into detail about how you can become more targeted in your approach.
Over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of working with various small firm leaders. At first I worked with them on their own business development and fine tuning some of the good work they were already doing. But working with these highly skilled professionals, there comes a time when there isn’t anything else they could do to grow their firm on an individual level.
So, do the math. One rainmaker or several? Everyone on your front line, that is to say who has direct client contact can develop business for you. This all began about two years ago when one firm leader in Ontario had the foresight to hire me to work with his first-year associate and one of his law clerks. It was my first time working with a law clerk. Admittedly when we began, she didn’t really even know what business development was. By the end of the year she had built up an extensive network and had attracted referrals to the tune of 300% ROI for my coaching. Since then I’ve gone on to work with several more small firm leaders and we are doing the same thing. Getting everyone on the front line engaged in business development. As a child I didn’t used to do well at math. But this is pretty simple math. One rainmaker or several?