Speaking at industry conferences and writing articles can raise a lawyer’s profile, and to a degree can even drive demand for an attorney’s expertise. But, if you’re investing time in these activities and not producing concrete results in the form of new clients and work, it may mean you’re not using proven techniques to convert exposure from those appearances into leads or sales opportunities.

There are presentation techniques that reliably motivate audience members to approach you immediately after your program ends -- usually to explain their company-specific version of the issue about which you spoke.  Invest some time and money to learn them, then practice them. (You don’t get good at anything by reading about it or trying it once.)

Make sure your new contacts and prospects are in your contact system, and follow up with them regularly. Maybe offer a private presentation of the same ideas at their firm or company.  Convert the time spent preparing and delivering your public presentation into the asset of a robust pipeline.

Intuitively, published articles increase exposure for the firm and the author, but it’s hard to measure.  To strengthen your bet, and triple the value of your time investment, take advantage of the multiplier effect available from these steps:

  • Convert the speech to an article, or the article into a speech.  
  • Place them prominently on your website and bio page. 
  • Send copies to clients, contacts, partners, associates and referral sources. 
  • Reprint them to use as handouts at future speaking engagements.
  • Provide them to media channels and event organizers as credibility-building door-openers that raise the odds of obtaining future publishing or speaking opportunities. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to cross-market to your colleagues. Communications among business-services firm colleagues, particularly those with whom you’ve not worked often or don’t know well, are often on the fly or at an annual meeting.  Make it easy for them to associate you with issues that their clients face, and they can be an excellent source of referrals.  Published articles and content from presentations before credible groups eases that path by raising your colleagues’ confidence that those to whom they might introduce you will respond positively to the suggestion.

If you happen to be one of those fortunate lawyers who is often invited to speak or write, but for whom business generation from these efforts remains disappointing, perhaps you’re being lost in the “white noise” of other lawyers speaking or writing on the same topics. Find a different angle.  Write about business issues; you’ll find a broader universe of people whose jobs obligate them to care about those issues.  On that basis, when you request phone time or face time with people like that, you’re not interrupting their job, you’re part of their job.

Recognize that, by the time a problem reaches in-house counsel’s desk, the business executives involved have probably been dealing with it for considerable time before it “matured” to where it’s become described as a [legal service category] matter.  If you wait until then, you’re too late to the party, and unless you’re really artful you may even create the unintended consequence of reinforcing an incumbent competitor’s position.  After all, today’s workplace behavior business discussion is tomorrow’s “employment matter.” Today favors you; tomorrow favors the company’s incumbent employment lawyers.

You want to be out in front of, and drawing informed conclusions about, industry issues while the conversation about potential impact and consequences is still speculative, and even the insiders don’t yet have definitively right or wrong answers.

To separate yourself permanently from the pack, become an expert in some business or industry.  Identify emerging topics and evaluate speculative issues. Demonstrate to clients and prospects that you’re relevant, and can help them look to the future.