Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lawyer Marketing & Business Development: Be Strategic

When I was a first year associate, and for a hundred years thereafter, the common school of thought on business development for lawyers in firms was "learn to be a good lawyer and the work will come." Sometime later lawyers started to advise associates to get involved in an organization or two as an extra curricular activity for marketing and business development purposes.

Rarely, however, did experienced partners advise younger lawyers in firms how and why to be strategic about business development. Rarely did, or do, they talk with them about how people find and hire lawyers, or how and why business might develop from extra curricular activities.

Therefore, associates across the country joined local alumni groups, junior chambers of commerce, women's groups, athletic clubs, etc., without a clue as to how legal work might come their way as a result. And, as a result, they spent a lot of time in those groups without ever getting much legal work.

The main mistake was the lawyers' lack of strategy about who and why people might hire them. They never thought about who they wanted calling them or referring a client to them.

Such lawyers never created a strategic plan that (1) identified a target market of potential clients and referral sources, and (2) laid out how they would reach that target market. Instead, they spent their extra time networking without a plan, hoping that someone they knew would someday need their services or know someone who did.

Granted, lawyers in general, within and outside of firms, are much more sophisticated now in terms of marketing and business development than 22 or even 5 years ago. But I find that many lawyers still do not approach marketing and business development with a clear idea of who they want to hire them and how that market will know of them when they need their services.

People do business with people they know, like and trust. People hire lawyers they know, like and trust. But being known, liked and trusted is not enough to develop business. To get retained as a lawyer, you have to be known, liked and trusted by the people who will need your services or refer you legal work in your practice area.

You can be highly admired and incredibly valuable in your local alumni group but if no one in the group is likely to ever need a commercial litigator or business tax lawyer, or know someone who does, do not consider your involvement to be business development and marketing. It may be an important part of your personal plan, but it is not part of your business development plan.

If you want coaching to create and implement a strategic marketing and business development plan that works for you, please contact me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Job Search Tip #3 for Lawyers - When You Are Not Working, Sell or Learn

Ann Arbor lawyer David Nacht recently gave advice to lawyers on how to get more business: “spend your time either working, selling or learning.” This applies to job hunters as well. When you are not working (working or applying for jobs), sell or learn.

Selling here means selling yourself. You have to network to develop relationships so that people get to know, like and trust you. Raise your visibility, get involved and get known for your great and unique qualities. If you hide at home or in your office, searching online or only asking people to tell you of openings, you are not selling yourself.

Keep learning. Use part of your time to learn a niche area, write an article, become knowledgeable about something that can help you stand out, or take time to develop more of your skills. This will help you get a job and get clients in the future.

Use your time to position and distinguish yourself. If you don't believe this is useful, ask yourself why someone would select you for an interview among all of the other candidates. What makes you stand out for the jobs you are seeking? Isn't it time to make that happen?

Next post's job search tip: Develop a Presence on the Web.

If you are ready for coaching to improve your job search, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Job Search Tip #2 for Lawyers - Start Working For Free

She had quit her job as a lawyer six months earlier. She had intended to make a transition into a different kind of legal practice, but she still did not have a job. He was more than a year out of law school and did not have a job. Another lawyer started worrying about having a gap on her resume immediately after being laid off. Five months later she still did not have a new job.

Since they had nothing but time on their hands, it was surprising that only the first of these lawyers started working for free. The other two did no legal work whatsoever - - a missed opportunity to add legal experience, develop their skills, demonstrate initiative, expand their network, obtain more references, and create a longer track record of success.

You can be like the second two, view your situation as beyond your control and almost give up. Or you can focus on what you can control and use part of your time to work for free to gain legal experience and make valuable contacts.

If You Are Not Working, Start Working For Free.

Following are a few ways you might work for free as a lawyer. It is important to choose areas of law that actually interest you and that you believe will help you in your specific search. It is also important to note that I am not advocating working for free as a lawyer at a law firm or other for-profit entity.

-Do pro bono work for your local legal aid office or bar association.
-Provide legal advice, administrative or other help for non profit organizations.
-Get creative and work on legal initiatives for a community group, city council, school board, the State Bar, etc.
-Research and get involved with relevant legal issues, proposals and potential legislation at the local, state or federal level.
-Work with student clinics in law schools, universities or colleges.
-Write a legal column for your local newspaper.

The bottom line: if you take initiative, you can make something happen in your job search by using your law degree and free time to make things happen for other people and organizations. Choose wisely and you will use your legal skills, enhance your resume, expand your network, make valuable contacts, get more references, and help others at the same time. By doing so, you will better position and distinguish yourself in your job search.

Next post's lawyer job search tip: Sell or Learn.

If you are ready to improve your job search through coaching, please contact me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Job Search Tip #1 for Lawyers - Stop Applying For Everything

She was mad. She had been rejected for a job as an associate that she didn't want, doing work she knew she wouldn't like and probably getting paid 40% less than her previous salary. She didn't understand why she hadn't received an offer after her interview at the firm. She was mad for several weeks.

He was mad. He had been told during an interview that he was overqualified. It was a first year associate position doing work he knew he wouldn't like, for very little pay, in a work environment he would not otherwise choose, but he needed money. He was mad for a while.

If these examples sound like you, or your job search strategy is to spend all of your time online applying to every law related job you find, and/or sending your resume to every law firm within 75 miles, stop and think for a minute. What is your ROI? What is the return on your time and efforts?

If all you are getting in return is mad, depressed or burned out, don't give up all hope. You don't have to start studying for another state's bar exam. There is a better way.

First, Stop Applying To Every Legal Job Posting You Find.

When you limit your efforts to jobs you actually want and for which you are a strong candidate, writing cover letters is easier. You will notice it immediately. You will know how your skills, experience, interests and background fit the job description and the value you will bring to the employer. Your letter and application will be more persuasive. Your fit and desire will show more convincingly in an interview.

By being selective about the jobs you apply for, you are more likely to stand out and you will save time, money and energy.

Why set yourself up for depression or frustration from rejection or silence about positions for which you had no reason to stand out or jobs you didn't want? That can't be the best possible use of your time and resources.

Next post's law job search tip: If You Are Not Working, Start Working For Free.

To improve your job search through coaching, please contact me.