Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Associates in Law Firms: Year 1 Business Development Plan

"People do business with people they know, like and trust." Successful franchises survive on this maxim because they are known to consistently provide a good quality product or service. In fact, most successful businesses depend on this principle, including successful lawyers, financial advisors and pediatricians, barbers, hair colorists and babysitters.

Last week I worked with new associates in law firms about how to use this principle to form a basic business development plan for their first year as a lawyer. We talked about the following elements of a plan:

1. Your Reputation (in marketing terms a.k.a. your "brand"): decide now what you want your reputation to be inside and outside of your firm by the end of 2011 and what specific steps you will take to develop that reputation. Be as specific as possible when defining your ideal reputation for your first year and how you will achieve it.

2. Your Network: identify ways to strengthen your existing relationships, rekindle former relationships and establish new ones - - inside and outside of your firm, personal as well as professional.

3. Marketing: learn ways to appropriately let people know what you do as a lawyer. This can include in person, on your business card, through your profile and status bars on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media, your bio on the firm website, your email signature block, information at the end of your articles, etc. For example, even as a brand new associate, you should practice a brief self-introduction, a.k.a. an elevator speech. Know what services you and/or your firm offer and the types of clients with whom you work. In other words, know how you and your firm help and who benefits.

Just as you should with respect to developing your legal knowledge and substantive skills as a lawyer, watch and learn about business development from lawyers you admire.

You will probably hear and learn that there is no secret formula or a sure thing when it comes to getting clients and developing business. But credibility and visibility are two keys to generating business. So start taking steps to become known, liked and trusted inside and outside of your firm. It's a great time to start.

If you are interested in coaching to get started now, please contact me.