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January 29, 2014

The most successful business development program we’ve seen: The case of Adams and Reese (Part 2 of 4)

Adams and Reese kicked off their business development program at a retreat where I gave a live presentation.  We then followed up with two webinars to the entire firm. My three presentations reviewed the top 10 ways to increase results from your limited marketing time, which are explained in Part 1 of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide:

  1. Prioritize relentlessly
  2. Start with current clients
  3. Listen
  4. Plan advances
  5. Follow up
  6. Work with others
  7. Focus on personal strengths
  8. Assess the importance of relationships vs. value
  9. Measure results
  10. Don’t stop

The content was customized to the firm’s needs.

Training of this sort sets the stage and helps lawyers decide whether they are prepared to commit the time necessary to succeed. But to produce an immediate impact on the bottom line, you need one-to-one coaching.

To date, five LegalBizDev principals have served as coaches for Adams and Reese: Tom Kane, Gary Richards, Fred Kinch, Ed Schechter, and Tim Batdorf. All followed the same basic procedure which starts with a one-hour call to discuss the background and goals of each lawyer. We then discuss best practices from other attorneys that relate to each individual’s objectives and we brainstorm initial action items. This is followed by eight additional 30-minute calls to monitor progress, pursue the most promising opportunities, assure efficient follow-up, and reinforce business development skills and long-term habits, including sustainability tactics for after the coaching ends. Throughout the coaching we refer frequently to job aids and templates in our Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide, and after each call we email a list of action items that the lawyer has identified.

While most clients prefer to schedule weekly calls, Adams and Reese felt that calls every other week would work better to allow sufficient time for lawyers to accomplish their action items.

We also provided unlimited email support between calls to help lawyers with the tasks and priorities they’ve identified, such as researching potential clients, drafting emails to reconnect with former colleagues, writing an agenda for a business development meeting, editing PowerPoint presentations to increase their marketing impact, or doing whatever it took to help them bring in new business.

Finally, at the end of every month, we provided a summary report to management that included tables showing how many hours per week each lawyer had devoted to business development, the advances they had achieved, and the dates they had participated in coaching telecons. These monthly reports also documented the details of all of the advances planned and achieved by each lawyer. This level of detail kept Adams and Reese business development staff in the loop so they could assist with ongoing actions and transition to assist lawyers after our coaching ended. The monthly reports and other progress details were also shared with firm management.

Eric Partlow, a Tampa-based litigation partner, explained that “it’s not rocket science or magic. But the ideas I received from my coach were based on studies and research of what works. For example, if I had an event coming up, I would ask my coach for advice. Some events work well in terms of business development and some don’t, I learned. For example, joining numerous committees as marketing opportunities has traditionally been perceived as a good idea, but it’s not always so.” While we should all strive to contribute through our service on committees, when it comes to marketing, there are better ways to maximize your efforts.

Partlow said his coach asked him to focus not so much on creating new business leads as on making the most of the leads he already had.

“Once I was forced, during the coaching process, to examine the relationships I already had, I was surprised about how many could be helpful in developing new business,” Partlow said. “And with them, it’s back to basics. Give a call, send an email, keep yourself in the forefront of their minds. You become an option for them that may not have existed before.”

Partlow said he felt “very encouraged to discover these opportunities. For me, one key insight was overcoming the hesitation to ask for work directly. People consistently overlook the importance of simply asking.”

Like others in the program, Partlow obtained several new matters by reaching out to clients and prospects more frequently. He found the Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide to be a quick and reliable resource, including the chapter on “67 ways to get a conversation going.”

Greg Rouchell, a New Orleans-based litigation partner, came to the coaching with far more business development experience than most of the other lawyers, and saw the program as an opportunity to brush up on his skills.

“I focused on organizing all my contacts and keeping track of the times I reached out to them,” says Rouchell. “Instead of email, sometimes a handwritten note is what you need to develop a better professional relationship. After all, most lawyers are competent at what they do. You need that something extra to set you apart, and that is the recipe for success.”

Rouchell says he learned that the “touches” with potential clients can take many forms. For example, around Mardi Gras he sent several clients a king cake from New Orleans.

“My takeaway,” Rouchell said, “is to maintain relationships and not become frustrated. It can easily take months or even years to develop a client. You don’t want to look back 10 years later and say, ‘I should have done this sooner.’

“This coaching process served to remind me of the importance of doing this. You can’t slack off. You just have to make time and do it,” Rouchell concluded.

When Rouchell reached out to one client for whom he had recently settled a case, they asked him about handling a new case in a very specialized area. He explained that it was outside his area of expertise, but that others in the firm could handle it. The client decided to send the matter to the firm because they had developed confidence in Rouchell.

This series was written by Jim Hassett and Jonathan Groner.

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