I don't have time = dog ate my homework.jpg

Some lawyers declare this openly. Far more say it implicitly through their avoidance behaviors. Most, though, relegate business development to the last item on their list, to be addressed when everything else is done and they have some extra time. I've been coaching lawyers for 25 years and I've yet to see one who had extra time.

The exception to that is when a case settles suddenly, or a transaction closes. In the ensuing vacuum, lawyers realize that they don't know where the next matter is coming from, and their anxiety ramps up, as it should. The problem is that episodic marketing and sales cannot succeed. There's nothing you can do for a week or two, or a month or two, that will produce any useful results. Marketing must be a continuum, consistently reinforced.

Over time, marketing begets sales opportunities, which must be followed up consistently to convert them into clients and engagements. Lawyers aren't in a one-call-close business, so making a single call or sending a single email is a waste of time that will only serve to position you badly with the recipient of either.

As for the claim to not have time, I'm not buying that. Even if you're billing 1800 hours per year, you still have 400-600 more available, which translates into 8-12 hours per week. If you're aghast at the suggestion that you devote that much time to business development, you're clinging to an outdated standard that will starve your business development efforts. 

There was a time when you could get by with an hour or two per week, or occasionally, but that was during the glorious high-demand market that's gone, never to return. Citibank's latest report shows demand for traditional legal services declining. That means that whatever business you get, you'll probably have to take it from someone else.

Business development is the lifeblood of your business. The idea of being so penurious with your time, begrudgingly granting an hour or two from time to time, and cancelling even that for almost any reason, makes no sense. Business development time is the seed corn of your future. If you're not using it purposefully, you're eating that seed corn, and endangering your future.

Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Wait a minute. I spend lots of time on business development." However, if by that you mean serving on civic boards and charities, and networking aimlessly, you're deluding yourself. Those kinds of activities made sense when everybody was buying. People got to know you, they hired you. Those days are over, too. Now, clients know a great deal many more lawyers than they'll ever hire. Now, you have to have a solid plan, and you have to execute it consistently, every day, every week, every month. 

Unless you can point to concrete results from those pre-2009 social/civic activities, you'd be well served to dump most or all of them and free up that time to apply to a serious marketing and sales campaign. (I mean dump them from your BD category. If you believe in the cause, stick with it, but don't call it BD.)

Training and coaching can help you develop skills. We can help you define your optimal market, and show you how to position yourself within it. We can help you develop messaging, and test the market to measure demand. We can teach you how to convert opportunities at a much higher rate.

There's a "but," and it's a big one.

But even if we instill in you truly superb skills, you won't produce any results if you don't put in enough time and work at it consistently. No skills can overcome a lack of time and effort. The future requires both.

To get started, evaluate where you're spending your business development time now. Identify just one organization or activity that you've been skeptical about for awhile, but kept at anyway, and calculate the time to devote to it annually. Now, resign from that role. You've just created time to do something worthwhile. Now, get on with it.

Mike O'Horo

Want to find out how much time it actually takes to develop the practice you want? Take these two steps today:

  1. Define your business development goal(s)

  2. Schedule a complimentary call with me