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October 24, 2007

Business development for associates – Eight steps to make the most of your limited marketing time (Part 2 of 2)

Last week, I outlined the first five steps associates should follow to assure that they get the largest possible return on their limited marketing time. This week, Steps 6 to 8.

Step 6. Get more advice from other lawyers.

  • Go to lunch with a mentor or your practice group leader to discuss the firm’s approach to marketing, the role of associates, and how you can help partners meet their goals.
  • Talk to senior associates and to partners about how business development really works in your firm. Get them talking about how they found their top clients, what has worked for them, and what hasn’t.
  • Schedule a meeting with someone in the firm’s business development or marketing department to discuss resources available to you and how they can help you achieve your goals.
  • Ask other lawyers:
    - What organizations should I join?
    - What should I read?
    - If you were in my position, what would you do?

Step 7. Prioritize relentlessly

For time-limited associates, prioritizing is by far the most important step. Start by listing action items based on your research and/or the items below. Then decide which action item is likely to provide the best return on your time. Get that one under control before you start the next.

  • Build personal and professional relationships with others at your level in client organizations. (But talk to others in your firm first to make sure you understand what types of contacts are encouraged for associates, and what types are not.)
  • Consider the importance of “internal marketing” within your firm:
    - Your most important “clients” may be the partners and senior associates you work for.
    - Ask them to rate their satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10. Then ask how to increase that rating, even if you are already a 10.
    - Make sure you know the partners who do the sort of legal work you want to pursue, and make sure they know you.
    - Get to know the administrative and business staff who can make your life easy. Recognize the help they provide, and thank them for it.
  • Make a list of all the people you should keep in touch with, from law school classmates to college friends and acquaintances, and establish simple systems and habits to stay “top of mind.”
    - With your peers, recognize that it may take years before they rise to positions where they could hire your firm.
    - Nevertheless, now is the time to keep developing those relationships.
    - Also see Increase new business by re-connecting with past clients and colleagues.
  • Consider joining a trade association or community group where you could meet potential clients.
  • Consider whether speaking and/or writing is a good way to increase your visibility, and whether it is the best use of your limited time. (See Get more results from writing.)
  • Consider becoming active in your local bar association.
    - This can have many benefits above and beyond business development, but it can also take a lot of time.
    - On the plus side, many lawyers find this to be a low stress way to begin networking.
    - On the minus side, depending on the nature of your practice, most of the people you meet may be competitors who would never send work to your firm.
    - Ask yourself how likely you are to get new engagements through the people you meet, and whether this is the best use of your limited business development time.

Step 8. Follow up consistently

The single most important factor is developing new business is following up, week after week, month after month, and year after year. It won’t always be easy, but it will work.

Desk_reference_cover_with_border_5 This post was adapted from The LegalBizDev Desk Reference.  For more information, Download legalbizdevsuccess_kit_summaryl.pdf.

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