What’s your agenda?
By Julie Fleming | April 22, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
One of my favorite questions is, “What’s your agenda?” I’ve noticed, however, that we tend not to ask that question of ourselves often enough.
Setting an agenda is a classic time management strategy. If you’re looking to make meetings shorter and more productive, circulate an agenda in advance and expect everyone to come prepared. If you want to make your day more productive, set your own agenda. Of course other issues may arise in the course of the meeting or the day, but if you set your agenda first, you’ll at least know what you intended to accomplish and you won’t lose track of necessary tasks.
Knowing your agenda is critical for networking. Meeting new people requires you to have a sorting agenda in place: do you want to meet lawyers, bankers, or parents? Are you interested in officers in closely-held businesses, or would you prefer to meet officers in public corporations? Knowing whom you want to meet will help you to identify the best groups to investigate and to target the right people for follow-up, which is where the networking magic happens, if at all.
Having an agenda is the difference between effective follow-up meetings and purposeless coffee dates that accomplish nothing. If you have some idea of what you’d like to discuss during a follow-up meeting, you’ll be able to tailor your conversation to be sure that you ask the right questions or offer the right information. It’s easy to wing it for follow-up meetings, but taking a few minutes to think about what you want from the meeting will make you much more effective.
Share your best ideas with your best clients.
By Julie Fleming | April 15, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
When do you share your best ideas? BTI Consulting, a group known for its deep research in client satisfaction and preferences, reports that:
“[j]ust over 2/3 of clients tell us the best new ideas they see coming from law firms happen during an RFP process. Somewhere among the sea of bland boilerplate submissions lies one scintillating idea, suggestion or nugget. One firm invested the time and energy to simply blow their potential client away.”
Being the firm that came up with an amazing nugget is great, but as the BTI article continues, “why wait until an RFP to strut your stuff?” RFPs may be a necessary part of business, but preserving—and perhaps expanding—client relationships is critical to a prosperous practice. (The article is directed to large firms, but the principles adhere to small firms as well.)
Business development trades in promises.
By Julie Fleming | April 8, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Sales. Selling. Sales pitch. How do those words come across to you? Positive, negative, or no charge at all? Studies show that a significant number of people have some bad impression about selling, though most people have no negative association with buying. (See Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human for more on this.)
But if you’re to grow your practice, you have to be able to secure new work, and that requires sales skills. I know, you didn’t go to law school to sell stuff (nor did I)… And yet, if you’re uncomfortable in a sales conversation, your potential client will perceive that discomfort and may think you’re uncomfortable with the matter or the client, or even that you’re trying to hide something.
I’m always on the lookout for alternative ways of looking at sales, because you must master your comfort with the idea of sales before you can master the skill itself. And I found a new perspective in a recent article that you cannot afford to miss.
Plans are useless, but…
By Julie Fleming | April 1, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
I see two huge mistakes among lawyers eager to build a book of business:
- the urge to jump into action without designing a plan, and
- the tendency to plan and revise and plan some more without ever moving to action.
Keep Your Friends Close!
By Julie Fleming | March 25, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Surprise! Today’s newsletter is a pop quiz. Who are your best referral sources? List the top 10 right now. If you are a more junior lawyer in a law firm and don’t yet have your own clients, list the senior lawyers for whom you do the most work.
How easy did you find it to make this list? This information should be at the tips of your fingers. If you don’t know who your top referral sources are, your activity this week is to find out.
How often do you talk with the people who refer business to you? One of my clients recently realized that his top three referral sources send him seven to ten substantial matters a year, resulting in several hundred thousand dollars of business. That’s great news! But he also discovered a significant problem: as he’d become busier, he spent less time maintaining the connections that had helped to build those referral relationships.
Do you have repeat business or loyal clients?
By Julie Fleming | March 18, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
I have a quote for your consideration today:
Progress or excuses?
By Julie Fleming | March 11, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
One simple question for you today: are you making progress toward your business development goals… Or are you making excuses?
Here’s the tricky part: progress doesn’t necessarily require massive action, and action doesn’t necessarily equate to progress
Client service = Value creation
By Julie Fleming | March 4, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
A key focus of your practice must be client service, not just to retain current clients (though that’s critical) or to expand those relationships (though that’s desirable) but also to create a positive experience for your clients, one that may help to build your reputation.
Client service creates client experience, and client experience creates value for your clients. As you build value for your clients, you will also build the value of your practice. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. I’ve written extensively on client service and value creation (see here, for example, and here and here), but sometimes you need a quick checkup as from this summary article, The Ten Commandments of Customer Service. Almost all of the “commandments” are relevant, but a few deserve a highlight.
1. “Know who is boss.You are in business to service customer needs and you can only do that if you know what your customers want.” Though I must add that in practice, the client is not necessarily the boss. Sometimes your role as counselor (in egregious circumstances, your ethical duties as well) will require you to challenge a client’s request. That requires finesse, but when done appropriately it’s a beneficial point of distinction for you.
Are you reactionary or responsible?
By Julie Fleming | February 25, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
After I finished writing last week’s article on the relationship between the generative power of language and your business development activity, I found several other articles discussing a similar topic. I highly recommend you check Michael Hyatt’s 3 Ways You’re Giving Up Power with Your Words: How the Way You Speak Can Sabotage Your Success. Hyatt’s discussion of how words like “I’ll try” give us an automatic escape from whatever you say you want to do:
“When we agree to a commitment by saying, “I’ll try” or “I’ll give it my best shot,” we’re saying the opposite. At least that’s what people usually hear.
The problem is that it not only undermines our credibility, it also lowers the chance we’ll make good on the commitment because it’s a subtle denial of our own agency.”
Take an entrepreneurial approach to your practice.
By Julie Fleming | February 18, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
One of the keys to building a successful law practice is adopting an entrepreneurial approach, regardless of your practice setting. In other words, whether you’re a sole practitioner or the newest hire in a gigantic firm (or anywhere in between), you must recognize that you “own” your practice, and you must act accordingly. That means:
- You take responsibility for building your book of business. You actively work to avoid relying on doing or inheriting work for someone else’s client
- You take responsibility for your career advancement. You determine what additional skills and experience you need to grow as a practitioner and you make it your business to acquire that.
- You take responsibility for the experience that your clients have with you. You decide (perhaps in concert with others on your team, if appropriate) how quickly you respond to client inquiries, how and when you proactively provide updates about client matters, to what degree you lead and collaborate with clients, and so on. You consistently look for ways to build value for your clients.
- You take responsibility for making necessary adjustments based on changing circumstances. You watch for trends in law, in business, and in the economy, and you work to adapt your practice to navigate those trends and to help your clients do the same.
- You take responsibility for your satisfaction in practice. You know that there’s no reason and no value to staying in a practice or a job you dislike. You understand that you won’t love every moment of your work. You stay attentive to be sure the positive moments significantly outweigh the negative, and if you find that untrue, you make the necessary changes.
It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it.
By Julie Fleming | February 11, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers Hot Topics
I confess: I’m one of the thousands and thousands of people who are thrilled that Netflix is finally streaming Friends. The early seasons were especially clever, taking all kinds of language out of context for comedic effect. (Stick with me, I do have a business development point here!) In one episode, Chandler accuses Joey of becoming too feminine thanks to the influence of his new female roommate, which makes Joey pout. Chandler asks what he said wrong, and Joey answers, “It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it.” (And thousands groaned, having heard exactly that charge somewhere along the line from a significant other.)
Somewhere through life experience, we’ve all learned the lesson that language can make a neutral concept unpleasant or aggressive. As a middle school teacher put it, “Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don’t say it mean.” Language has power, so we know to choose words carefully to avoid tainting a message with unintended connotations.
How often do you pay attention to the language you use to describe business development?
Over the weekend, I led a workshop for a small group of lawyers who’ve been tapped as high-potential leaders within their firm. I started the workshop, as I often do, by asking what feels uncomfortable about business development, and one answer guided a large part of our conversation:
I don’t like having to sell myself.
Craft a more persuasive message
By Julie Fleming | February 4, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Regardless of your area of practice, you almost certainly spend a big chunk of your time persuading someone to do something. In addition to persuading a decision maker (a court or opposing party, perhaps), during the course of a day you probably attempt to persuade colleagues about a plan of action (or a destination for lunch), administrators about research or other assistance, and so on. Great. Let’s assume that persuasion is among your top skills.
I’ve observed that the skill sometimes falls by the wayside, however, when it comes to business development. I recently talked with a client (a successful litigator) who told me how difficult he finds it to strike the right balance in talking with a prospective client. How much is too much, how little is too little, and what should the content be?
I ran across a nice article this week that will help: How Doctors (or Anyone) Can Craft a More Persuasive Message. The article centers on the distinction between the message and the messenger, which is certainly critical, but it also offers three simple factors that you can use to form a more persuasive message. (more…)
Should you join the ABA?
By Julie Fleming | January 28, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
The ABA is offering a free trial membership, including membership in one substantive Section, if you join by January 31. Whether you’re looking to develop your substantive skills, to add another activity to your bio sketch, or to build new relationships, the ABA offers tremendous benefit. I’ve been active since I was in law school, holding a variety of leadership positions, and it’s been an unequivocally good experience. If you aren’t a member, check out the offer. (And if you’re wondering, no, there’s no benefit to me if you join.)
If you’re wondering why bar association membership might be beneficial for you and how to go about getting the maximum benefit, check out this blog post from 2008. It’s one of my most popular articles.
Finally, if ABA membership isn’t right for you, consider whether another group might be. Perhaps a bar association or industry group heavily populated by lawyers that focuses on your practice area (AIPLA, for example) would be a better match.
Bribe your way to success
By Julie Fleming | January 21, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Clients often tell me that they don’t feel motivated to do business development work. Although I understand on one level, it surprises me every time simply because I don’t believe that any successful person relies on motivation to succeed.
Your 2015 marketing must-do
By Julie Fleming | January 14, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
By now, you’ve probably accepted the reality that you must market your practice, and that you must do so consistently. But the bulk of your time goes into practicing law rather than marketing your practice, so you need to use your time as effectively as possible. You can’t afford to waste time.
And that leads to the “must do” marketing activity for 2015:
I don’t really like watching videos, and I certainly don’t like shooting or sharing videos of me. But the statistics are hard to ignore. Video is important and will become even more so over time. Ignore the product demonstration benefits (since lawyers don’t really do that), but if nothing else, consider this: when you have videos available, your potential clients and referrals sources get to “meet” you before you ever speak. It allows people to get a sense of who you are, how you talk, whether you’re approachable, and so much more that can never be conveyed in text.
Avoiding 2015’s top obstacle
By Julie Fleming | January 7, 2015 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
A client recently shared his worry about taking on new marketing approaches, which included an effort to become credibly visible in a variety of marketing channels rather than centering all of his efforts on a single marketing avenue as he had in the past. Nothing especially shocking, but my client (risk-averse, like so many lawyers) was almost paralyzed.
A recent Seth Godin blog post casts light on that client’s situation by untangling risk and uncertainty:
Uncertainty is not the same as risk… Uncertainty implies a range of possible outcomes. But a range of results, all uncertain, does not mean you are exposing yourself to risk. (Emphasis added.)
If you’ve ever found yourself hesitating on doing something new (and who hasn’t), read Godin’s full post. I suspect that you’ll come away with a different view of risk, one that will help you to avoid standing still, which is (as usual) this year’s top obstacle.
Make a new year’s decision.
By Julie Fleming | December 31, 2014 | Published In Hot Topics
Happy New Year’s Eve!
If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to make a decision (not a resolution) about how you will engage in and with business development activity going forward. Your consistent commitment makes the difference between a decision and a garden-variety resolution (which, statistically speaking, has a 25% chance of being broken within the first week and only a 46% chance of being maintained for more than six months).
By Julie Fleming | December 24, 2014 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
It’s the season of celebration: Christmas almost here, Hanukkah just ending, and other special days about. Whatever you celebrate, and even if you aren’t celebrating anything, I wish you a magical season.
(Wishing for a biz dev read? Here’s one of my most popular articles in 2014.)
Year in review: what worked?
By Julie Fleming | December 17, 2014 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Please continue to stay tuned for an announcement on the rescheduled Build a Rock Solid Book of Business webinar.
In just two weeks, 2014 will be over and done. You can still accomplish a lot if you choose, even with the intervening holidays, but there’s one must-do task to set yourself up for a strong 2015: your year in review.
Just about every successful person I know or know of considers the year-end review a critical piece of preparing for the upcoming year. There’s no single way to conduct this review, though you can get a flavor of the process through Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review and his suggestions on how you can perform the same process.
When it comes to marketing and business development, you can streamline the process by asking three simple questions.
- What should I stop doing? What marketing initiatives flopped? What did you dislike doing? Which activities delivered results that weren’t proportional to the time (and perhaps money) investment required? These are activities you should stop doing.Just a word to the wise here: be sure that you’ve given an activity enough consistent effort to judge it fairly. If you just started working within an organization in October and you’ve only attended one meeting, you probably don’t have sufficient data to make a determination.
- What should I start doing? This is where you’ll revisit your business development plan. Which activities fit your marketing identity and are well calculated to reach your ideal client? Most likely, you should start implementing some subset of those activities.
- What should I continue doing? In other words, what worked well? Consider results in terms of building your brand, raising your profile in the marketplace, building valuable relationships, and landing new business.
News you can use
By Julie Fleming | December 10, 2014 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Thursday’s webinar Build a Rock Solid Book of Business has been postponed due to a family member’s hospitalization. I’ll send information on the new date as soon as it’s set. (And if you missed the announcement but would like to register, you may do so here .)
Without further ado, some articles and ideas you can use this week:
1. If you work in a firm and struggle to get around to business development activity thanks to the pile of billable work on your desk, read this quote and then internalize it:
“The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!” Earl Nightingale
2. If you think that doing good work on time (you know, just like most of your competitors) is enough to create value, try this exercise to uncover reasons for clients to choose you.
3. Especially pertinent for the holiday season, when socializing is at its peak: 5 Steps to Building Great Business Relationships .
4. As you’re working on your business development plan for 2015, consider the interrelationship between goals, strategy, and tactics . Get them mixed up, and you’ll waste a lot of time.
5. When you just need a laugh: Foo Fighters Fight Foo For You!
Finally, are you committed to growing your book of business but not sure where to start? I’ve set aside a few consultation times for next week. Schedule a time for us to get acquainted and explore whether I might be able to help you.
Don’t miss this no-fee webinar!
By Julie Fleming | December 3, 2014 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Do you ever wonder why the plan that a colleague used to land business just doesn’t seem to work for you?
Are you tired of facing a choice between doing billable work (so you have receivables today) and doing business development work (so you have receivables tomorrow)?
Have you ever had the feeling that there’s a secret that you could use to build a successful practice, if only you knew what it was? And a fear that other lawyers know that secret, but you don’t?
Do you ever worry that your marketing or business development activity comes across as pushy or obnoxious—or, worse yet, desperate?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be that way.
Over the last few weeks I’ve shared the 9 Ways You’re Losing Business—And What to Do About It. Last week, I shared a “big picture” schematic that shows you exactly how to determine you most effective marketing activity. Join me next week for a complimentary webinar, when I’ll show you exactly how to….
Build a Rock Solid Book of BusinessThat Brings You More Impact, Influence, and Income
I’ll show you how to:
- Develop marketing that’s an ideal fit for you, your practice, and your clients so you never again feel inauthentic or pushy when marketing your practice
- Become credibly visible in your market, so you become known to your potential clients and referral sources
- Create a consistent experience for your clients so that they know exactly what to expect during the course of the engagement
- Build relationships that leads to business (directly or by referral)
- Create value for your clients above and beyond the basic expectations for an engagement
- Identify the word that no client wants to hear and replace it with the word that will connect with them
Use this link to register to attend the webinar or to receive an invitation to an encore broadcast.
I’ll look forward to “seeing” you at next week’s webinar!
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business: The Big Picture
By Julie Fleming | November 26, 2014 | Published In Business Development Client development Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Over the last 10 weeks, I’ve serialized the article Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To recap, the nine ways you’re losing business are:
- You aren’t creating value for your clients.
- You don’t really see your clients.
- You’re indistinguishable from other lawyers.
- You don’t invest in your practice.
- You don’t know how to say no.
- You’re invisible.
- You “don’t have time.”
- You’re marketing using someone else’s plan.
- You’re renting your practice, not owning it.
I shared suggestions on how to address each of these problems in the respective article parts, but there’s a bigger answer. Effective business development lives at the intersection of four factors:
- Your practitioner brand (who you are, as demonstrated in the way you approach your practice and your clients, and who you are in terms of marketing)
- Who your client is (in terms of demographics, psychographics, and more)
- What your client needs (substantively and from the relationship with you)
- How you create value for your client
Here’s the question for you: how frequently are you operating in that sweet spot?
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 10)
By Julie Fleming | November 19, 2014 | Published In Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 10 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It.
Next week, I’ll summarize the entire series and show you some next steps so that you can go into 2015 from a position of strength instead of trying to play catch-up.
Reason No. 9: You’re renting your practice, not owning it.
Are you renting your practice? I’m not asking whether you’re renting office space. And I’m not asking whether you’re an associate or junior in practice. This question is about your attitude and your approach to your practice. Are you building your practice based on what you want your practice to be, or are you “paying your dues”? Compromising? Accepting what isn’t ideal but might be good enough for now? Waiting until something changes?
If you aren’t actively and strategically growing your practice on a consistent basis, you are renting your practice. Even if you’re a sole practitioner, renting your practice means you have a job, not a career. As we learned during the recession, lawyers can lose their jobs when firms fail or as a stopgap measure designed to avoid failure—or even to increase profit.
“Career” non-equity partners (meaning those who cannot or will not advance to the point of attaining equity partnership, as distinguished from “transitional” non-equity partners who are working to become equity partners) are at special risk. These lawyers typically have strong skills but relatively high salaries and relatively small books of business, meaning that they represent a drag on the firm if work dries up and they can’t bring in enough new work to support or significantly defray their expense.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 9)
By Julie Fleming | November 12, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 9 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It
Reason No. 8: You’re marketing your practice using someone else’s plan.
Law schools rarely teach students how to market (or manage) a law practice. So most lawyers learn by reading articles, attending training, and—most commonly—following the example set by a successful mentor. However, every person brings different skills, assets, and attitudes to both marketing and practice.
If you’re using a plan created by someone who’s significantly different from you, even a plan that’s been highly successful for that person won’t be successful for you. Every person brings a unique set of skills and assets to be used in marketing as well as preferences that must be accommodated, at least to some extent. In addition, every ideal client profile will be slightly different. No two plans will be identical, and even remarkably similar plans will probably be executed in distinct ways.
I once worked with Sarah, a lawyer who had built a thriving practice, and I thought I’d follow her lead so I could get the same results. Unlike me, Sarah was a social butterfly. She entertained frequently and met contacts for a meal or coffee most every day. She seemed to know everyone: when we went out to lunch, I felt as if we were having lunch with the whole restaurant because it seemed that she spoke to almost everyone there. Sarah was well known in the community, she met many potential clients who subsequently hired her, and she had a steady flow of referrals.
I tried to model Sarah’s networking activity. I laid great plans, but I dreaded executing them. Unlike Sarah, I’m an introvert, and the thought of that much socializing was simply exhausting. I made an effort, but it was too easy to get sidetracked with work (pressing or otherwise) because I didn’t enjoy that volume of activity, and so I didn’t get anything remotely close to Sarah’s results. Sarah’s plan worked for her, but it wasn’t a fit for me, and it wasn’t as effective as the plan I created to incorporate my own personality, preferences, and skills.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 8)
By Julie Fleming | November 5, 2014 | Published In Blog
Welcome to part 8 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It.
Reason No. 7: You “don’t have time.”
Time. That great limiter for every practice. No one has time enough for everything We know this. And yet, some days, doesn’t it feel like you could summarize your task list by writing simply, “EVERYTHING”? You have billable work, admin work, plus a personal life, and you want to add more on top of that?
If you don’t make time to complete business development activities and to create value for your clients, you’re losing business.
The “more” you have to add to your task list includes activity designed to raise your profile in the marketplace, client acquisition, and creating value for your clients above and beyond the billable work you do for them. You might group all of this as business development activity, since it’s designed to bring in and satisfy your clientele. That seems like a tall order, and in some ways it is, but two operating principles can simplify it a bit.
First, you have to find a way to marry your business development work with your billable work. When the two are divorced, as they generally are, you’ll have the sense that you can do only one of those activities, and the billable work will win. That’s how the feast/famine cycle gets started.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 7)
By Julie Fleming | October 29, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 7 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business.
Reason No. 6 You’re invisible.
How do people find you? Are you visible on your website, in publications (offline and online), as a speaker named in conference materials, at networking meetings, in organizations relevant to your practice, in community organizations, and/or on social media?
In today’s economy, if you aren’t credibly visible in multiple channels, you’re losing business. Invisible lawyers (I call them the anguished invisible) don’t get as many clients. If you’re invisible, you won’t advance in your firm or your community. You won’t advance in the profession, and you’ll tend to bemoan your bad fortune in marketing and in practice. What you won’t realize is that the root of your troubles lies in your status as a best kept secret. That’s no way to live, and it’s certainly no way to build a viable practice.
To be credibly visible means that you appear in a variety of channels in a way that’s relevant to your practice. In other words, you can be found:
- Speaking about your practice area or related topics at conferences;
- Teaching about your practice area or related topics;
- Publishing articles, blog posts, books, book chapters, etc. about your practice area or related topics;
- Engaging on social media and sharing references or resources (your own or others’) relevant to your practice area;
- Curating content about your practice area or related topics;
- Working within an organization that has some nexus with your practice area or the kinds of clients you represent; or
- Serving in a leadership role in an organization that has some nexus with your practice area or the kinds of clients you represent.
Must you be active in all of these channels? No. You have to select the channels that fit your marketing identity and are reasonable calculated to reach your ideal clients and referral sources.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 6)
By Julie Fleming | October 22, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 6 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business.
Reason No. 5 You’re Losing Business:
You don’t know how to say no.
If you don’t have firm guidelines that help you determine which opportunities to accept and which to decline, you’re losing business. That’s true on two levels.
1. Saying yes to one opportunity always means, as a matter of inarguable fact, saying no to something else. Accepting Client A means that you may not have bandwidth available when Client D comes along (or that, if you accept Client D, that time pressures may reduce the quality of your work product or client service). Taking on a leadership role with one organization means that, at least for the time being, you won’t be able to seek a leadership position with another. And choosing to write three articles that will appear before your ideal clients may mean that you’ll have to give up a few hours of sleep.
Choosing to grab one opportunity and let another go for now may be a wise decision or a foolish one. Only by being clear on your objectives can you know which is which. For instance, if you’re accepting a leadership position in a group that’s populated by your ideal clients or referral sources, even giving up a similar opportunity may make sense—unless activity with the second group would deliver an equivalent result with less of a time commitment.
That’s why it’s so important to create a business development plan and to track your activity against it on a regular basis. Your plan will let you weigh an opportunity against your objectives as well as against other opportunities, known and unknown. If you accept an opportunity without due consideration or just because it seems like a good idea and you don’t have anything else planned runs a high risk of getting you sidetracked.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 5)
By Julie Fleming | October 15, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 5 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business.
Reason No. 4 You’re Losing Business:
You don’t invest in your practice.
When I was growing up, I loved a Kingston Trio song called Desert Pete, which taught me the concept of priming a water pump, or using a precious resource (water in this case) to produce more of it. The song’s narrator describes his reluctance to pour water into the pump when he’s so thirsty, but taking that leap of faith pays off.Unsuccessful lawyers resist investing time and money into business development; successful lawyers understand that it takes money to make money and that a practice can never grow without a significant investment of both time and money. If you don’t get this lesson—if you’re tight-fisted with time and money even when using it well would lead to more and better business—you’re losing business. (more…)
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 4)
By Julie Fleming | October 8, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 4 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“.
Reason No. 3 You’re Losing Business:
You’re indistinguishable from other lawyers.
Very often, clients view one lawyer as essentially indistinguishable from another in the same area of practice. Especially for legally unsophisticated clients, a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer, and as long as she can handle the matter for the client and she “looks” ok—decent website, decent biographical sketch, decent office and staff—the assumption is that the lawyer will be adequate to meet the need. Even for more sophisticated clients who regularly hire lawyers, it can be difficult to find meaningful distinctions between competitors.
You have a way of approaching your practice and your clients that is partly innate and partly developed over the course of your practice. I call this your Attorney Avatar. I’ve identified six Attorney Avatars that describe practitioners: the Personality, the Partner, the Prophet, the Guru, the Guide, and the Gun. Each carries unique attributes and strengths and defines certain areas that will require attention to build a strong practice.
When you understand who you are as a practitioner, you can develop your attributes and characteristics to create a specific and systemized experience that you create for clients and potential clients. Of course, you must marry your clients’ needs with your own approach to practice, but when you keep both in mind you’ll create an experience that is unique to you because it’s driven by your attitudes and beliefs about what makes for a good practice and a good practitioner.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business (part 3)
By Julie Fleming | October 1, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Welcome to part 3 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“.
Reason No. 2 You’re Losing Business: You don’t really see your clients.
Sure, you see your clients. You have meetings with them, you talk with them by telephone or videoconference. But do you really see your clients? Too many firms and lawyers view their clients as one-dimensional objects of practice. Client numbers are assigned, and the client comes to assume that number as an identity.
You don’t ever intend that to happen, but the press of business can make it hard for you to keep up with clients individually … And that’s why you must have a system in place for making sure that you recognize what’s happening with and for your clients.
This is a problem that’s endemic to rainmakers who are seeking to grow a book of business above all else. You court a potential client. You’re interested, highly responsive, you make an effort to learn about your potential client’s interests, to engage that person in business and personal conversation, to be your most appealing self. And then as soon as you get the matter, that deeply personalized attention drops off because you’re in service mode (which often equates to maintenance mode) while you’re off chasing another client.
You’re losing business, and here’s why
By Julie Fleming | September 24, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
Last week I introduced a 10-part article that I’ll serialize in this newsletter. If you missed that introduction, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“..
Here’s why you’re losing business…
1. You aren’t creating value for your clients.
Let’s assume that you do good work from a substantive perspective and that you deliver that work on time every time. That’s a great start, but it isn’t enough anymore.
Historically, clients have measured value received from an attorney based on the successful outcome of a matter. Did you win the case? Did you get most of what the client wanted in the negotiation or contract? If you did, you delivered value, and clients would usually be satisfied.
Today, however, clients are more sophisticated than ever before. They’re often able to evaluate the cost of the successful outcome in terms of dollars, time, missed opportunities, and resources consumed. Whether that evaluation is correct isn’t the point. The point is that a good outcome is just the tip of the iceberg in value creation.
Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It
By Julie Fleming | September 17, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Nine Reasons You're Losing Business
A longer newsletter than usual this week, with three important sections.
1. A must-read article for those of you working in large firms: Pay Gap Increases Between Equity and Non-Equity Partners. Two brief excerpts will show you why you can’t miss this:
“Equity partners averaged $971,000 in annual compensation, versus $338,000 for nonequity partners, according to MLA’s third biennial survey of what partners are paid at large law firms in the United States. While average pay for equity partners has risen nearly 20 percent from $811,000 since MLA’s first survey in 2010, nonequity pay has remained relatively flat, increasing just $2,000 over the same period.”
“The growing gap between equity and nonequity partner pay mirrors the disparate amount of business the two groups of partners bring to their firms. ‘The correlation between originations and compensation is getting stronger,’ says Alan Olson, a law firm consultant at Altman Weil Inc. Olson says firms are ‘rewarding and investing in those partners that can develop and maintain a remunerative legal business.”
I’ve suggested (and the data supports the idea) that nonequity partners are in a tenuous position unless they’re making a strong record of securing business. This article provides deep insight on this point and data on pay disparities.
2. LAST CALL for The RainMaster Paradigm Revealed: A New Model for Thriving in the Post-Recession Economy, a workshop I’m hosting at the New York City Bar Association on September 23. Visit this link to learn more and to grab one of the few remaining seats for this intimate workshop. (Want to attend but not in NYC? Please hit reply and let me know.)
3. This week marks the start of a 10-week series in this newsletter, titled Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. I’d originally planned to send it as a single article, but it’s nearly 15 pages long! This week starts with the premise of the article, and you’ll find the problems and solutions over subsequent newsletters.
What’s your vision for your practice?
By Julie Fleming | September 10, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Last week, I attended a business seminar focused on hiring and managing employees. I was surprised that the program started by asking us attendees to identify our business vision and what we stand for. I was even more surprised to find how difficult that was to do!
You may have heard the distinction between working in your business as opposed to working on your business, popularized by Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. The former is what you do to earn money, and the latter is what you do to design and build your business.
Lawyers, like other business owners, tend to spend your days working in your business: seeing clients, writing documents for client services, having meetings about client projects, and so on. And that’s good and important work, without which the business that is your practice would cease to exist.
Consistency Makes it Simple
By Julie Fleming | September 3, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
It is incumbent that your thoughts, words, and deeds match up. This is a higher standard than that held by the mob. . . When your thoughts, words, and deeds form a seamless fabric, you streamline your efforts and thus eliminate worry and dread. In this way, it is easier to seek goodness than to conduct yourself in a haphazard fashion or according to the feelings of the moment. . .
It’s so simple really: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it.”
Are you ready to thrive in your practice?
By Julie Fleming | August 28, 2014 | Published In Blog Uncategorized
Three offerings for you this week.
1. Join me in NYC on September 23 for a 1-day workshop,The RainMaster Paradigm Revealed: A NEW Model for Thriving in the Post-Recession Economy.I’ll explain why becoming a rainmaker is no longer the goal to pursue in the post-recession economy and what you can do instead to build a strong practice. Learn more and registerhere.
2. The next round of Coursera’s Better Leader, Richer Life begins on October 5. This free online course is taught by Steward Friedman and based on his bookTotal Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. If you’ve ever felt like there isn’t enough time for your practice and your family and serving your community and meeting your own personal needs, you can’t afford to miss this opportunity.Click here to register.
Should you (could you) join a board
By Julie Fleming | August 20, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Clients often ask me about the business development value of joining a nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and (as with most activities) the value varies depending upon your objectives and the board you might join. In general, board membership can be an excellent way to meet other professionals who may be relevant to your practice and to gain an extra perk for your biographical sketch. And if you join the board of a nonprofit that advances a cause important to you, you may find personal satisfaction as well.
Which board should you join?
Consider organizations that sponsor causes in which you are genuinely interested. You can gain strong contacts from an organization that addresses topics of little matter to you, but when your interests align with the organization’s mission, you will likely connect more deeply with other board members and with the organization’s
membership more generally. In addition, because you will actually be working on the board, real interest will make the hours you invest less of a burden. (more…)
Why you MUST act
By Julie Fleming | August 13, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Overthinking can ruin your plans. One of the biggest mistakes I see lawyers make is coming up with a good, solid plan and then discarding it before ever giving it a shot. Overthinking takes the oomph out of a strategy, and there’s no better way to short-circuit than to let fear take over and reverse a decision.
This week’s quote is right on point.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
There you have it. Go out and get busy!
If you’re feeling anxious about biz dev
By Julie Fleming | August 7, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
I have a couple of resources to share with you this week that will be especially helpful if you’re feeling anxious about the results of your business development effort or about how you can get the work done given all of your other commitments.
But first, a quick note: (more…)
By Julie Fleming | July 30, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
“Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what you are doing.”
– Peyton Manning
This quote stopped me in my tracks. My first inclination was to disagree, because I sometimes feel pressure because of a deadline or because of the importance of some activity, even though I know what I’m doing. Digging a bit deeper, though, I think Manning has a point.
When it comes to business development, the lawyers most under pressure are those who don’t have a cohesive plan, who aren’t implementing their plan consistently, or who haven’t fully committed to one or more activities that are likely to help them secure work. Although they know what they’re doing on certain levels, there’s a disconnect between intellectual knowing and buckling down to do the work. If you know that you should request an on-site meeting with a client, for example, and you expect that you might well land more business or receive a referral or even deepen a valuable relationship, but you don’t ask for the meeting, you’re going to feel pressure. (more…)
How to Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile
By Julie Fleming | July 23, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
LinkedIn is, de facto, the preeminent social media platform for professional purposes. As of May 2014, LinkedIn featured over 300 million mostly professional users, growing by two new members per second. (Read this article for 100 staggering statistics about LinkedIn.)
How can you construct a profile that stands out? I happened across a really nice infographic this week that offers 10 Tips for the Perfect LinkedIn Profile. I’m planning to review and revise my own profile this week, based on some of the suggestions—how about you? (more…)
A mentor’s legacy…
By Julie Fleming | July 16, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
My first legal job was serving as a clerk for the Hon. J. Owen Forrester of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. I knew I wanted to be a litigator, and so working for a trial judge was my idea of the perfect job. Sure enough, I learned lessons that have lasted the test of time.
Judge Forrester died on July 1, and while attending his funeral, I asked a number of his other clerks the most important lesson he taught them. Interestingly, every person alluded to exactly the same lesson:
To be effective, solve the root problem rather
than spending time on peripheral, non-dispositive issues.
Fear can be good news!
By Julie Fleming | July 9, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers Uncategorized
I’ve been talking about fear with my clients quite a lot recently. (If you’re feeling fear, trust me, you aren’t the only one!) Sometimes it’s the fear of taking a step–more accurately, the fear of making a misstep. The fear of losing what you have (either material belongings or a reputation or self-identity) can be paralyzing, even if you know that you can’t get the next thing you want without giving up something you now have. And the fear of missing out has become so commonly identified that it has its own acronym, FOMO. Neither last nor least is the ubiquitous fear of rejection, which nearly everyone feels at some time.
Years ago the title of a popular book proclaimed, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. While the title is attractive, in my experience it’s hard to follow. In fact, given the typical risk resistance that most lawyers have by nature and/or nurture, it may be tougher for lawyers than for others who spend less time thinking about what might go wrong. (more…)
Implement these ideas today
By Julie Fleming | July 1, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Client development
What would it take for you to catch up on all those articles and emails you put to the side (physically or digitally), promising to read them later but almost never actually doing so? For me, it was spending the last two weeks sitting in the ICU with a very ill family member. (He’s now out of ICU and doing well, happily.) And while catching up, I ran across a few articles and resources you can’t afford to miss.
1. How do GCs really view lawyer marketing? This article, summarizing a panel of Fortune 500 GCs who spoke at the Legal Marketing Association annual conference, is well worth a read if you’ve ever paused in the midst of business development activity and wondered why you’re bothering. The big take-home for me? Fortune 500 companies pay attention to client alerts and blogs as well as speaking engagements. Holiday cards and directory listings, in contrast, ranked low.
Bottom line? Providing relevant and timely content to potential clients establishes your credibility and makes you a viable candidate for retention. (Note that these conclusions may not translate directly to consumer clients.)
Not enough time for biz dev?
By Julie Fleming | June 24, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Client development
The #1 objection I hear to undertaking business development activity is time. Nobody has an overabundance of time, and when there’s plenty of billable work on your plate, it’s often hard to free up time to bring in yet more work. (Willingness may be an issue, too. As I discussed recently in this article, in addition to the time crunch, you may unconsciously be resisting new business if you’re already very busy.).
Lack of time is a real concern, but it’s also illusory since we all make time for our top priorities. As Larry Winget has written, “Your time, energy, and money always go to what is important to you.” If you say you want to grow your practice and yet you never seem to have time for the requisite activity, you should reconsider your level of commitment. (more…)
How can you reach them?
By Julie Fleming | June 18, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
You have competitors, and depending on your area of practice and your geographic area, you may have lots of competitors. How can you stand out? I’ve covered some options previously here and here, for example.
One of the key ways to distinguish yourself is to go where your ideal clients and referral sources are and to deliver something of value to them. That often means speaking, writing, teaching seminars, and so on. All true, all potentially effective (especially if strategically selected with proper follow-up in place), but it all starts to sound a little wah-wah-wah, like the teacher’s voice in Charlie Brown TV specials and the NON-MOBILE version. (more…)
Get more productive and connected!
By Julie Fleming | June 11, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
This week, I’d like to share 3 things I’ve found recently that have been tremendously helpful.
My 1-3-5 List I recommend that you maintain at least two task lists: one that covers everything you need to do, broken down by task, project, and due date, plus one for today’s tasks. (Why “at least” two lists? If you sort your overall list effectively, a single comprehensive list of tasks is enough, but you might find that you prefer to maintain separate lists for individual projects or domains.)
Do you really want more clients?
By Julie Fleming | June 4, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
Good news! The hard copy of Legal Rainmaking Myths is finally available for purchase. You can pick up your copy here. And if you’ve read Legal Rainmaking Myths or the second edition of The Reluctant Rainmaker, please share your review here or here, respectively.
It seems obvious that growing your practice means you want to bring in new clients and new business, right? Without the consistent flow of new business, practices not only don’t grow: they die. (more…)
How your holidays can help you grow your practice
By Julie Fleming | May 28, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
We celebrated Memorial Day in the US on Monday, marking the unofficial start of the summer holiday season. Children are out of classes, or will be soon, and many of us are thinking about slowing down a bit to enjoy more family time.
It’s always a challenge to balance billable work with business development work with personal life, and a lot of my clients seem to find that even more challenging over holidays. But here’s the truth: if you drop back on business development activity because of the season, growing your practice will be that much harder. (more…)
When you’re “too busy” for biz dev
By Julie Fleming | May 21, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
We’ve all been there, when work is so overwhelming that it feels like there’s no time for anything else. We make promises (it’ll be different when this project is done) and we make excuses (this matter needs my full attention and I couldn’t possibly shortchange my client by spending time elsewhere). Especially for reluctant rainmakers, both are the currency of justification.
If making promises and excuses won’t cut it (and for the serious professional, it won’t), what should you make? Allowances. When busy-ness is real (and often in practice it is), determine what business development activity you will commit to while you’re swamped, and then make that happen. It’ll be less than your ordinary level of activity (that’s why it’s an allowance), but you’ll at least hold your own and most likely progress with your plans. Most importantly, you won’t have the pressure of the constant restart. (more…)
9 ways to fail in sales
By Julie Fleming | May 14, 2014 | Published In Blog Business Development Coaching for lawyers
I read a terrifically useful article this week titled How You Fail in Sales. Before you discard its relevance because of the word sales, remember that sales is partly persuasion (of any kind—see Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human for more on this) and partly conversation designed to discover a match between a potential client’s need and your ability to help. Lawyers and other professionals sell every day, for business development and substantive practice purposes. (more…)