Here’s a brilliant insight: if you devote more time to marketing, you increase your chances of getting results.
But how do you strike a balance between bringing in new work, and paying the bills by doing the work you already have? Not to mention finding the time to get home before the kids are in bed. There are no easy answers, and every consultant and service professional constantly struggles with this question.
It would be nice to know what other law firms are doing. But many firms are secretive. And others don’t even know, because they don’t track business development time meticulously enough.
When I ask clients how much time their average partner devotes to marketing, I’ve heard everything from almost no time (“they can do it in the morning instead of reading the Wall Street Journal”) to an average of 8 hours per week and more for partners.
According to a recent survey from ALM Research and the Brand Research Company , in large firms “Business development is expected of most partners to achieve equity status.” However, “few firms have a set expectation of the number of hours a lawyer should devote to business development.”
I’ve written in the past about some of the firms that do have an expectation. When Graydon, Head & Ritchey put a new business development strategy in place, they required that each partner spend at least 200 hours per year, or about 4 hours per week, in direct selling. Direct selling included meetings with clients and prospects, but excluded such tasks such as writing articles and conducting seminars. The target for associates was at least 50 hours per year, or about 1 hour per week.
In a speech a few months ago, Paul Clifford, former managing partner at Gadsby Hannah now at Law Practice Consultants said that “to be competitive today, partners must work 2500 hours per year,” an average of 50 hours per week for 50 weeks. (He also noted that 2500 hours is on the high side, and 2200 hours is not unusual.) 1800 of those hours will generally be billable. The other 700 are “investment hours” divided into three groups: 300 hours for practice management (where that applies), 200 hours for client relationship management, and 200 hours for marketing/ business development.
In most situations, I am a big believer that less is more. But with marketing time, more is more. In my new book, I recommend minimum weekly guidelines, based on the marketing goals each lawyer selects.
I believe that for most lawyers, the first marketing goal should be to build stronger relationships with top clients and referral sources, because experts agree that this is likely to produce results more quickly than anything else. And even when it does not produce new income, it protects your most important asset: relationships with your top clients. If that’s is your primary goal, I recommend an absolute minimum of at least one hour per week.
I also talk about two other common goals in the book. If you want to get engagements with new clients, I recommend at least three hours per week. If you aim to increase visibility with new clients and referral sources, I recommend at least one hour per week.
If you go below these numbers, you will still make progress, but my fear is that you will fail to follow up on opportunties, and results will be so slow that you may give up. On the other hand, any time that you can devote to marketing is better than no time.
This material was adapted from my new book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide, which will be available on Amazon in September.