Lawyer business development "practice"

Q: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

A: "Practice, practice, practice."

Violinist- canstockphoto10877671.jpg

How do you develop the kind of client roster and revenue level to which you aspire? Same answer: Practice, practice, practice. The key word in any skill-based pursuit is "practice."

For some reason (one that may not even be conscious), lawyers seem to expect themselves somehow to intrinsically know how to get business, i.e., without any training or practice. Why is that? Would they expect themselves intrinsically to be able to play the piano, turn the double play, prepare a gourmet meal, play scratch golf, or write the Great American Novel?

I don't know about all those other sublime skills, but my theory of why lawyers expect to get business without skills or experience is because, up until the Great Recession of 2008, they did get business without skills or experience. Lots of it. From the mid-to-late '80s until the economy tanked, they plied their trade amid a perfect storm of demand for legal service that enabled annual rate increases of from 6%-10%.

This experience caused lawyers to believe that marketing and selling were easy, and didn't require any real skill. The glitch is that they weren't marketing or selling; they were order-taking.

The order-taking era is over, permanently 

It's time to deal with the real world, i.e., what your clients have faced for a long time, and it's characterized as declining demand and increasing competition, both of which require real marketing and sales skills.

Because nobody is born good at it and there are no "naturals," that means you have to  actually get good at marketing and sales, which means:

  • understand what it is 
  • learn how to do it 
  • practice, to get good at it (and confident)
  • do it often enough to become experienced 
  • get objective feedback and coaching so you can improve and approach the "artistry" level 

You'll get good at business development the same way you got good at lawyering. So, let's start by no longer calling it "business development" and, in recognition that the five bullets above represent an investment and progression over time, hereafter call it "business development practice."

Mike O'Horo

RainmakerVT's online training simulations include a free "Practice Mode" that lets you refresh what you learned - in five minutes or so just before you apply the skill in the real world.


"Be distinct...or extinct"

“Be distinct, or be extinct.” So stated Tom Peters, the management guru who co-wrote In Search of Excellence and many other books. It conveys the same message as Jack Trout’s Differentiate Or Die.

The "die" part of Trout's warning doesn't refer to sudden, traumatic failure. It's more akin to death by a thousand cuts. If you think about it, you've probably already seen signs of it.

We’re very thankful…

…for all the help, guidance, advice, insight, encouragement and support we’ve gotten over the past 3-1/2 years as we’ve re-invented client development training via RainmakerVT.

As all entrepreneurs will admit, there’s a long, arduous stretch between the “Eureka!” moment when you see the future and how you can create it, and the heady point where you’ve become the de facto standard that everyone uses and against which competitors are measured.  When you’re inventing something completely new (“disruptive innovation” as they like to call it in Silicon Valley), this stretch is defined by more unknowns than it’s possible to conceive of at the outset.  That’s probably a good thing.  If we actually had a list of the obstacles, frustrations and disappointments in front of us, would we still have embarked on the journey?

Along with those challenges, however, we also got to experience the rush of creativity behind doing something that’s never been done before.  The six weeks that Craig and I spent in our equivalent of Boeing’s Skunk Works, during which we scripted all the RainmakerVT lessons, tests, interactions, scenarios and dialogue, were simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. All the battles with our technology partner as we stretched them far, far beyond their comfort level to invent true interactive simulations, were worth it when we saw the finished product and heard the glowing feedback from lawyers who participated in our user evaluation program.

There is much, much more to learn, experiment with, succeed and fail at, and experience as we continue.

Today, though, we’d like to thank all the lawyers, consultants, trainers, coaches, CMOs, BDOs and others in the legal marketing-and-sales-support industry who have been so generous with their time, knowledge, wisdom, contacts and relationships.  Many of you have been friends for much of the 20 years we’ve spent in the law biz, and we couldn’t even have attempted to create RainmakerVT without you.

We also thank Brad LeaJason StraubBrad Doyle, and the entire crew at LightspeedVT for for believing in us, and for all their smarts, skill and perseverance during the dark days of figuring out the complicated puzzle that became RainmakerVT — while overcoming the recurring urge to take us into the elevator lobby and shoot us.  You translated our vision into reality.

We’re nowhere near declaring success as we envision it, but there’s no way we could have gotten this far without the encouragement and support of our families, who somehow always manage to see a bright spot amid our every disaster, failure and frustrating setback.

Two family members in particular are worthy of special acknowledgement:

Trish O’Horo Wilson, who, without being asked, simply started helping us, taking care of a bunch of administrative tasks that were falling through the cracks every day.  All of a sudden, Craig and Mike had more time to focus on priorities.  It’s our good fortune (and Trish’s bad luck, I guess) that Trish is both a seasoned business executive and a seasoned sales person.  

She managed our user evaluation program masterfully, then started selling and managing accounts, and managing Mike — no small task, that.  Today, we recognize that she’s been the perfect startup co-founder, wearing many hats interchangeably, seeing what needs done and making it happen.  That we refer to her as our COO is akin to describing a decathlete as a javelin-thrower.

Helen O’Horo Gillespie, despite having her own flag-distribution business to operate, and also without being asked, saw that we were overwhelming Trish and started off-loading a lot of Trish’s duties, so quietly and effectively that it was a few months before we even knew of her role.  Her focus and dogged persistence assure that whatever she puts on her plate gets done. She and Trish operate so independently, and coordinate so seamlessly, that we were able to remain blissfully ignorant of how they had made our burdens so much lighter.  It’s like we have this other team within our team.

Special thanks to Trevor Goss, without whose knowledge and energy this website -- and our ability to communicate with you -- wouldn't exist. You'd still be looking at the tired site we had for too long.

Finally, but most importantly, many thanks to the forward-thinking law firms and lawyers who, seeing the same future we see, purchased RainmakerVT knowing it was new and imperfect, and who continue to partner with us to improve every aspect of the product, user experience, and our ability to support its effective application.

With that, we wish everyone a rejuvenating Thanksgiving holiday and, if you’re traveling, a safe and hassle-free arrival and return.


"Unconscious Incompetence"

Business development is a profession for which few lawyers are qualified, but all can become so. You have to learn, make mistakes, gain experience.

Compensation Spreads of the AmLaw 200

Highest-paid partners make 24 times what lowest-paid make, with an average ratio of 11:1. Bring in business, or finance the top lawyers' pay.

"Actions to enhance revenue"

Law firm cost-cutting is only half the equation. It must be combined with creating a real sales force. Otherwise, it's a Band-Aid.

Client-Funded Sales Investigations

Law firms don't grow current clients because they lack intelligence about problems that drive demand, despite having the means to obtain it.