If you put off business development, your practice will look like your teeth would if you put off brushing them.

If you put off business development, your practice will look like your teeth would if you put off brushing them.

As silly as this may seem, this is exactly what, to me, a staggering number of lawyers are doing. In a buyer’s market, business development is hygiene, not “earn a gold star if you occasionally get off your butt and do something”.

Throughout my 27 years as a sales coach to lawyers, about 80% of lawyers for whom their firms purchased unlimited coaching didn’t use it. Why? “Too busy.”

Because their firms accepted this argument, most made it with impunity. Big deal. It was during the Golden Age of Law Firms, as characterized by CitiGroup’s Dan DiPietro.  Everybody was doing just fine, indeed, thank you. 

Fast forward to 2009-2010

In response to The Great Recession, law firms went into Queen of Hearts mode, i.e., “Off with their heads!” Everything got slashed to the bone, including about 10,000 lawyers’ jobs. The message emerging was, “Everybody better start doing something to generate business. This time, we mean it. Really.”

Except, apparently, they didn’t. Today, amazingly, complacency still reigns supreme. It’s as if the past 10 years never happened.

Despite law firm management’s vociferous declarations that those with no business are in peril, out in the capillaries lawyers behave as if they still believe that billable tasks obviate what should be a survival-driven focus on finding a way to make some type of contribution to revenue generation. 

A specific example

Fifty percent of lawyers whose firms selected them to take advantage of an offer of three months free business development training in exchange for feedback on the training program did nothing, and had the training offer rescinded. Their reason: “Too busy. Maybe next month.”

Don’t worry. The market will probably wait as long as you need it to. Oh, and please inform the Titanic’s captain that the deck chairs are beautifully arranged.

Hygiene

So, what does it mean to treat business development as hygiene? It means you do it every day, no matter what. When you’re in the middle of a trial, or a big transaction, you’re not too busy to make time to shower, brush your teeth, and groom yourself. There’s no way you won’t allocate that time every day. You don’t even think about it. It’s an ingrained, autonomic habit.

Business development has to be the same. Every day, do something to establish, maintain, and reinforce your presence in your market.

  • Review your pipeline of sales in progress. Send an email to any that have stalled, prompting them to revisit some aspect of it. (No nagging, “Did you decide yet” emails, though.)

  • Spend 30 minutes reading business news in your best client’s industry, identifying issues that that client, and similarly-situated companies, would find relevant

  • Send one email to a dormant client or contact mentioning a relevant issue, requesting a call to hear their views

  • Jot down ideas for articles or blog posts that you’ll write at a different time

  • Spend 15 minutes writing a rough outline for an article or blog post based on one of the ideas you captured at another time

  • Set up Google Alerts for clients and referral sources so you can remain informed about their circumstances

  • Review Google Alerts and draft a relevant email to keep you front of mind

Create appointments with yourself

These are just a few examples of things that can be done in small blocks of time. I don’t care how busy you are. You can do one thing like this every day.

Right now, create a 30-minute appointment with yourself in your calendar for every business day, and a 60-minute appointment during the weekend, when you have more time to think and reflect.

Honor those appointments every day and you’ll never experience a dry well, or the anxiety of not knowing where your next engagement will come from.

Mike O’Horo


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