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.