Business Development Strategies for Ambitious Lawyers

hand clicking business strategy on word search puzzleYou started the year out with a bang. Now business at your law firm is flat or on the decline. Instead of beating yourself up over what has gone wrong, why not get serious about jump-starting your business development? Maybe it's time to set clear, time-tabled objectives and follow through.

First of all, write down your goals with specificity and set deadlines for their accomplishment. Here is an example of a fully-described goal with a deadline.

By March 1, 2016, meet and begin cultivating relationships with general counsels or deputy general counsels in five information and technology companies located in Dallas, Texas that generate $5 million or more in yearly revenues and that hire outside counsel to handle their litigation matters.

So, you now know the persona of your target clients. Next map out the steps you will take to win those clients.

Here are 4 rock-solid lawyer business development strategies that will put you on track to achieve your business development goals.

1. Reach out, connect, and network.

Winning business can happen only by building relationships, both professional and personal, that will result in mutual benefit to you and your contacts. Network on a regular basis with existing clients, prospects, and referral sources.

There is no substitute for networking — it is critical to maintain your visibility so you will be aware of new trends in your clients' industries and be top-of-mind when discussions about business problems arise.

Face-to-face contact will also help you establish trust with your connections. You can get that consistent face time with prospects if you adopt these practices.

● Set up at least two visits a year to your clients' places of business.
● Meet weekly with a potential client with whom you have never spent one-on-one time.
● Schedule eight coffees and/or lunches each month with prospects and referral sources.
● Whenever possible, pick up the phone instead of sending an email. Your call may go to voice mail, but your prospect has heard your voice, remembers why she likes you, and knows you are inviting her to meet. Follow-up with an email.

2. Offer extraordinary client service.

Existing clients are the best sources of new business. Spend time and energy nurturing those important relationships by not only delivering excellent legal work, but by being consistently responsive. Inform clients from the inception of the engagement what response time they can expect when they call or email you. Then keep those commitments. Responsiveness includes:

● Acknowledging emails within a few hours, even if just to say you will answer more fully later.
● Return all phone calls within a half-day if possible.
(If you are busy, have an assistant return calls, with assurance that you will personally return the call within 24 hours (at the maximum.)
● Change your outgoing voicemail daily or weekly to reflect your availability.
● Report to the clients, without being asked, the progress of their cases.
● Take your conversations beyond just business to include asking about clients' families, interests,vacations, etc.

3. Boost your credibility

Be the expert new clients want to hire. Get your board certification as soon as possible. Board certification is an instant credibility builder… if you make it easy for the client to find out about it by printing that information on your business cards and hanging your framed credential on your office wall.

Show referral sources the depth of your knowledge about your specialty by writing articles and blog posts which you email to them. Showcase honors, activities, and presentations in your firm bio on your website and within your LinkedIn profile.

Building and maintaining industry knowledge about your potential client's field is also a key component of effective business development. Keep up with press articles, attend conferences, or even commission yourself to write a research report that analyzes industry trends and developments.

4. Fine-tune your brand.

The first thing a potential client will do is either search for you on Google, or look you up on LinkedIn. What will those prospects see when your profiles appear? Take some time, particularly in LinkedIn, to build out your profile so that it clearly demonstrates your value…who you are, your specialty, a list of cases you have handled successfully (without violating confidentiality) and more. Make sure your profile picture is professional and polished.

Self-promote in a professional way! Communicate your knowledge, experience, and accomplishments in forthright language, rather than sales or promotional language, that sets forth the facts about you and never suggests you are boasting.

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