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Let's get the new year started off on the right foot by simplifying what many lawyers struggle with. There's a lot of confusing advice out there for lawyers who are trying to learn how to get clients. Let these three basic questions be your guide to simplified business development: What? Why? How?


What problem, situation, challenge or opportunity drives demand for your service?

Not "What legal problem," but “What business problem.” By the time a problem is categorized as a legal problem, it's too late. The conversation has moved on from "What should we do" to "Who should we choose to perform this legal task"? The "business problem" conversation is the one they'll welcome you to participate in. 

What's happening in your clients' industries? What macro forces are shaping their options?  

Think in terms of tangible stuff like strategy and operations. The success of every business is determined by six Critical Success Factors:

  • Product (or service, or idea; something to sell). They must produce it, license it, or buy it for resale.
  • Capital, or other forms of financing the company’s operations. They have to raise equity investment or borrow debt financing.
  • Distribution, i.e., how they'll get what they sell to those who want to buy it. This includes, marketing, advertising, direct sales, channel sales, physical distribution, warehousing, delivery, etc.
  • People to do all the stuff that needs done. They have to recruit, rent, hire, manage, compensate, train, reward, promote, discipline, fire, and retire workers.
  • Facility in which the people will do their jobs. They have to buy it, rent it, build it, upgrade it, expand it, or virtualize it.
  • Government: licensing, taxation, regulation, compliance, enforcement, adjudication, etc.

If you spend some time getting and keeping yourself informed, you should be able to create and sustain a pretty robust conversation about all that, and with far more people than are present in the Legal Dept.

Why is this problem important?

Not every problem justifies a solution, decision-making, investment, and risk. That depends on the problem’s relative impact. Why must people care about it and do something about it? What are the specific strategic, operational, economic, and emotional consequences of the problem's existence? Who among the "people" (above) are most affected? 

How can you make a difference?

Can you 

  • help prevent it
  • contain or limit its impact if it's just emerging
  • remedy it if it's already in full bloom

"How" is not an invitation to pitch or describe your service and expertise. It's not about you; it's about helping the buyer navigate the transition from the "current state" into the "desired state." If you do that, they'll ask you about your role, capability, etc. They'll hear your answer in a useful context rather than as abstract horn-blowing.

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The discipline embedded in these three simple questions will guarantee your relevance, which will in turn guarantee your continued inclusion in the conversation, which will guarantee that you're still around and in contact when issues arise that could reasonably involve you. Taken together, that means that you'll eliminate the risk of being forgotten, or of having to figure out some clever way to manufacture a way to get in front of that client or prospect again.

Mike O'Horo

Unless your firm is an outlier, you probably waste 80% of your business-development training/coaching budget on lawyers who waste it by abandoning the training after you buy it.

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