What To Do When You Don’t Get The Matter.

One of my clients (let’s call her Renée) had a major disappointment recently. She had been courting a potential client (let’s call it ABC Corp.) for quite some time, and all the signs indicated that she would be tapped to handle a major piece of litigation. And then, instead of returning the engagement letter, ABC Corp. called Renée to share the news that another lawyer had landed the matter instead.

Certainly, a painful moment.

To her credit, Renée took the opportunity to ask what she could have done differently. ABC Corp. was pleasant and gave some answers that were plausible but didn’t quite ring true to Renée, and then the call was over.

Now what? What should you do next when you’ve lost a potential client?

  1. Find out why, if possible. Since the answers Renée received didn’t ring true to her, we stepped back to consider what the real reasons might be. Money is always a likely suspect, so we discussed how the competitor lawyer may have structured the winning fee proposal and whether/how that should affect what Renée does. We also discussed other possibilities like a long-term relationship between the GC, a perception that the other lawyer has more experience, and a few other factors.
  2. Evaluate your own performance. Would you, with the benefit of hindsight, change anything about the way you approached the potential client and matter? Would you change the make-up of your pitch team? Were there any awkward moments you would seek to avoid next time? Did you spot a way to improve your marketing materials?
  3. Determine your next steps with the would-have-been client. How far has this ship sailed? In other words, do you expect a future opportunity to arise with this client? (For Renée, there’s always the possibility of more litigation; if the matter was the sale of a business, what potential might exist with the successor?) Based on how the process proceeded and was completed, should you continue to court the would-be client, should you consider asking for a referral, or should you let things lie for the time being?Whatever your answer, unless you decide to take no further action (which in the majority of cases is not the best decision), sketch out your next steps and put dates or time-frames on your calendar.
  4. If you’re taking the loss hard, remember this quote from Pat Summit: “Left foot, right foot, breathe.” In other words, keep going. Don’t let one loss, even a painful one, knock out your drive to build your practice.

Rejection of any kind is unpleasant, so make sure you learn as much as you can from losing a matter to help you improve your business development skills.

Staying Committed To Your Business Development Goals

As you’re no doubt aware, on Monday (the 17th), the U.S. observed its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a holiday intended to encourage Americans to serve their communities in honor of Dr. King’s legacy.

What you may not know is that Monday was also Blue Monday, the date on which it’s said that post-holiday letdown, the demise of New Year’s resolutions made without the foundation of a well-considered goal, dreary winter weather, and the prospect of another year made difficult by the ongoing pandemic combine to create the most depressing day of the year.

I hope you haven’t felt the full effects of Blue Monday, but over the years I’ve noticed that this is about the time when lawyers with newly focused on business development (especially if the decision came as the result of something external, like an annual review) feel their motivation waning.

There’s much to be said about motivation versus commitment. For today, I offer this quote and two simple questions:
  • How committed to business development work are you, really?


  • What would it take for you to shift from periodic motivation to build your practice to a commitment that will carry you even when you get tired, bored, frustrated, or distracted by your billable work?
Food for thought.

How To Use Social Media For Business Development

You’ve probably recognized by now that social media activity can be useful for business development purposes… but you may not have figured out exactly how to make that happen for you. All too often lawyers tell me that they’re working hard but not seeing any meaningful results from their social media activity. It’s frustrating and enough to make you question whether the effort is worthwhile. After all…

Social media too often becomes a time-consuming activity that seems to promise results are just around the bend—the next post, the next connection. But some lawyers have cracked the code.

Since as far back as 2016, my favorite resource for lawyers has been the annual social media white paper from Good2BSocial. This year’s report offers some good tips (the do’s and don’t-do’s) based on a survey of AmLaw 200 firms’ social media, with winners identified by name and the reasons for their success analyzed. (If your firm is nowhere near the 200, don’t worry: the tips apply regardless of the size or type of firm.)

Note that registration is required to read the report.

It’s worth it if you’re looking to up your social media efforts.

The whole report is worth reading for its analysis of which firms excel in social media and why, but let’s focus on key points:

  • Podcasts and video use are on the rise: consistency in production and targeted content separates the successful from the also-rans.
  • Firms are increasingly focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as corporate activism.
  • COVID-19 resource centers remain useful, though not as hot as they were in 2019 and 2020. The most successful firms created their resources from a client-centric point of view.
  • Targeted content cuts through the noise of social media.
  • Just posting doesn’t work: only engagement can build relationships.
  • You must track data to measure social media performance. Otherwise, you’re just guessing at whether your efforts are paying off.
  • Know what distinguishes the platforms from one another and how to use each most effectively.
  • Focus on your clients and potential clients, not on your own firm.

The bottom line? You must tailor your posts to your clients’ and potential clients’ interests, you must engage with those clients and potential clients, and you should go beyond text to audio (podcasts) and video content.

If that feels overwhelming, take heart: when you take the time to create a cohesive social media marketing plan, you can harness the work you do (whether that’s answering questions that multiple clients are posing, presenting a CLE program, or writing an article, for example) and repurpose it in multiple forms and formats, then share it in ways designed to reach your target audience.

To succeed with this, you must create and use a cohesive plan, not just “do social media.”

There’s more useful information in this report, so please do read it if social media use is any part of your marketing plan. Most importantly as we’re still in the New Year’s glow, decide what your objectives are with social media and then create a plan you can follow consistently.

Up For A Challenge?

Happy New Year! January always feels like a fresh start to me, just like September does, after so many years of school. I love to harness the power of possibility that comes with a fresh start.

Every January, I choose one activity that I’d like to make a habit or incorporate more fully into my life. It may be purely a business activity, or it might be a personal activity that has broad benefits.

And then I practice the heck out of that activity for the month.  My results vary with this approach, but it’s always useful. Sometimes I do build a habit (that’s how I went from drinking more Diet Coke each day than any sane person ever should to drinking only water a couple of years ago). Other times, my concentrated activity just gives me a big boost even though I don’t continue with the same level of activity. That’s how I wrote my third book, Legal Rainmaking Myths: I didn’t finish it in January, but working on it every day got me over the starting-is-hard hump.

If you’ve done your planning for 2022, you’ve identified a handful of activities that you want to begin or to do more consistently. Choose one, and make January your month of that activity. If you want to increase one-on-one contact, for example, make a plan to schedule a meeting in person, by videoconference, or by telephone every weekday. If you want to raise your profile by speaking, spend some time each day researching speaking opportunities (relevant community groups or conferences, for example), contacting organizers, and working on topic ideas. You may not get to speak in January, but if you’re diligent, you can get a lot done to set yourself up for speaking later in the year.

If you’re up for the challenge, choose your activity, decide on an appropriate commitment, and block out the time. Get your year off to a powerful start.