There’s a lot of biz dev advice flying around the legal industry blogosphere. Too much of it is of limited utility and value to lawyers because it's too much "what" and too little "how."

I follow a lot of law-biz-dev blogs and related discussions in LinkedIn groups. It’s hard to discern patterns within the small bites of these channels that I consume daily. However, nothing smacks you in the forehead with the obvious quite like reading a lot of these at once after an absence.

Too much “what,” too little “how”

After being distracted for a week or so, I spent time catching up. Here’s my two-by-four-to-the-forehead revelation:

We seem to have an abundance of people talking about what lawyers should do to get business, and a corresponding scarcity of people talking about how they might actually do it.

Here are some examples of “what”-oriented exhortations taken from posts I read so often:

  • Define your target market

  • Build your visibility and credibility

  • Join associations

  • Cultivate referral sources

  • Write down 90-day goals

  • Write action items for each goal

  • Write articles

  • Focus on clients’ businesses, problems, opportunities

  • Build relationships

  • Grow your business with social media (at least 100 flavors/day of this one)

  • Create a blog

Legitimate, but frustrating

Legitimate advice, each and every one. But useful? Raise your hand if you're a lawyer who knows how to do those things.

I can only imagine how frustrating it is for lawyers to read this stuff. They’re already confused by the upending of their world in recent years, struggling to figure out how to compete, how to get business, how to collect what they’re owed, etc.

Looking online for help, all they’re told is what to do. They already know the “what,” i.e., the list above. They want to know “how.” 

“How do I do all those things?”

What if you were seeking investors for your startup, looking for guidance, and all the lawyers told you was, “find an Angel investor”? How helpful is that?

Give away the “what,” sell the how

Let’s upgrade the dialog by adding more of that “how” info. I know, “how” is what you sell; too much “how” and you give away the store. But, consultants can give away an entire do-it-yourself version of any “what” we espouse. Those lawyers willing to DIY get free guidance and earn the rest by effort. Good for them. Anyone who can do it himself isn't going to hire you, anyway.

We all know, though, that many lawyers won’t want to do it themselves, or won’t have time, or whatever. If they decide to hire someone to help them, who will they pick — a stranger, or the person who explained it thoroughly enough to give them the chance to accomplish it for free?

Don’t be described as having “short arms, deep pockets.” You can’t be a successful bartender if you never buy a round.

Mike O'Horo

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