What’s really stopping you?

You’ll find information on how to land new business anytime you pick up a law practice management magazine. You can’t avoid advice and resources about business development. And maybe that’s a good thing.

If all that information hasn’t helped you to develop your own method for securing new work, there’s something you need to figure out more than how or even why to get new business…

It’s what Seth Godin describes as “help and insight about getting to the core of the fear that is holding us back.”

Read this quick post, and then get honest with yourself about what fear is getting in your way. (Some common fears that I see are fear of seeming desperate or needy, fear of rejection, fear of disapproval, and fear of looking foolish. It’s worth noting that I have yet to see someone fail because of a fear of success.)

Need help with this? Let’s talk.

Did you miss joining Ivy Slater and me live for the Grow Your Network to Grow Your Net Worth webinar?

Whether you missed us or you’d like to watch again, you can watch the replay by clicking here.

Don’t delay! The replay is only available until Sunday, October 25th!

Mark your calendar for the next installment of the webinar series, Mastering Your Time for Greatest Profit: Blending Year-End Billable Responsibilities and Holiday Relationship Development to Build Your 2021 Foundation.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, November 19 at 1 PM ET/noon CT/10 AM PT.  

There will be more info next week on how to register.



Legal Marketing: How do you handle silent rejection?

It’s hard to hear “no” when you’re working to increase your visibility through speaking or writing or when you’ve asked a potential client for new business. But as difficult as it is, you probably hear “no” on a regular basis. In fact, if you don’t get turned down at least every now and again, you’re probably playing it too safe and not pursuing enough opportunities. You’ve likely come up with some methods to handle that disappointment.

But how do you handle it when you’ve made an overture and all you get back is silence? Do you assume rejection? Do you follow up, or follow up again, and how do you avoid becoming a pest? Do you take a new approach and see if that gets you further? Do you tuck tail and give up? Ugh—these are tough questions.

Consider these questions when silence is the only answer to an inquiry: 

Diagnostic questions: What (maybe) went wrong?

  • Was your overture interesting enough? Did you offer a juicy tidbit designed to pique interest? For example, rather than simply describing an article you’d like to write on some aspect of law, offer the same description plus a snappy tentative title. If you’re requesting a meeting with someone, be sure you’re offering a good reason for your contact to give up the time to meet with you.
  • Was your request clear enough? Instead of asking for a short meeting, ask for a 15-minute meeting. Suggest a target length for the article you’re proposing. If you’re inviting someone to speak on a panel, suggest a couple of topics she might consider. Details yield specific thought, and you’re more likely to get a response if it’s clear what you want and why.
  • Did you choose the right method of communication? Sometimes you’re stuck with a prescribed format (how to submit an article proposal, for example), but take the time to think it through when you have options. If you know the recipient, what mode of communication does he prefer? How likely is it that his email inbox is overflowing and yours simply got overlooked in the volume?

Prescriptive questions: What can you do now?

  • Might you follow up to try again for a response? Follow-up is fairly easy when you have a somewhat close relationship with your contact or when your contact actually suggested you be in touch. Even without some previous connection, you can typically follow up once (and, depending on the circumstances, perhaps twice) even on a cold contact. If you’ve pinpointed a potential problem with the diagnostic questions, edit your request and try again. To avoid looking like a pest, give serious thought to calling if you’d previously emailed or vice versa. Pay attention to the way you phrase your follow-up: consider the difference in tone between “my email dated 9/1/20 may not have reached you” vs. “you may have overlooked my email dated 9/1/20.” Whatever you do, think pleasant, not pushy.
  • Do you have some other reason to be in contact? Be careful with this approach, because it can backfire if you’re clearly manufacturing a reason to communicate with the person. However, if you have an article that they might find useful or if you bumped into a mutual acquaintance who shared some interesting information, pass that along with a gentle reminder about your initial request.
  • Look for another route to that person. Especially if you’ve made a cold contact, look for a way to network into the connection. Check for mutual connections on LinkedIn, for example, or ask around in your firm or circle of acquaintances. Finding someone who can introduce you or promote your request can be an effective way to gain attention.
  • Let time pass, then try again. When you can’t follow up again, make a note on your calendar to get back in touch in a few weeks or months. End-of-year and summer holidays are often a good time to get back in touch with someone thanks to cultural expectations. You might also watch for an announcement or publication that affects your request or for some suggestion that your contact was involved in something time-consuming that may have prevented a response. One of my clients was frustrated by the lack of response from a distant friend until he discovered that the company in which the friend was an executive had just negotiated an agreement to purchase a competitor. That news both explained the silence and opened an opportunity to get back in touch.

Most importantly, don’t take silence personally. Chances are good that your contact was simply too busy to respond to you. Even if the silence was intentional, the lack of an explicit rejection leaves the door at least cracked for a future attempt at communication.

P.S. If you missed the first session of the webinar series, “The Human Touch of Rainmaking”, it’s not too late!

You can catch the replay until Sunday, October 4th. 

Click here to watch it.


P.P.S. Mark your calendar for the next installment of the webinar series, Embracing Virtual and Remote Networking which will be held on October 15th. 

More details to come!

Think business development doesn’t matter? Think again.

I occasionally talk with associates, in the first few years of practice ranging through senior associate levels, who tell me that they don’t need to pay attention to business development.  The reasons vary.  Some lawyers feel they’re “too new,” some don’t plan to make partner and think business development is therefore irrelevant for them, and some say they’re just not good at business development — so why bother?

My answer is the same in every case.  You should only be concerned with business development and networking (which is the foundation of business development) if you want to have a career.  Any career.

Harsh?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.  Let’s take a quick look at each objection.

I’m too new!  The best time to begin thinking about business development is a few years ago, and the second best time is now.  That’s true even if you graduated from law school this week.

College and law school classmates may not be in a position to deliver high-dollar legal work now, but some (perhaps many) of them will at some point.  They’ll want to send their work to someone they know, like, and trust.  Who better than a long-time friend who’s established a strong professional reputation?  If you aren’t that person, one of the (other) classmates with whom you’ve lost touch very well may be.  Likewise, the low-level employee with whom you discuss interrogatory responses will go up the chain of command as you do.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a strong relationship with her as she moves into positions of power?

Bottom line?  You’re never too new to begin networking and establishing good connections with those who will be future decisionmakers.

I don’t want to be a partner, so business development doesn’t matter for me.  Partnership certainly isn’t for everyone.  But unless you plan not to work (in or out of law) after leaving your firm, you should be networking anyway.  If you want to move in-house, connections with clients and with other lawyers may pave the way.  The same holds true if you choose not to practice law: only a small fraction of positions are filled solely through advertisements.  The rest are filled through, or with the help of, contacts.  And other activities generally undertaken for business development purposes (such as writing articles and speaking) help to establish a reputation and a reach that will be useful when searching for a new job or career.

If you plan to continue practicing law in a firm, portable business is your key.  Lawyers up to their 3rd or 4th year of practice may make a lateral move without portables.  Past that level, however, such a move is difficult (always, and even more so in today’s economic environment) if not impossible.

And, by the way, if you change your mind and do decide to shoot for partnership, you must be able to show you have at least the strong likelihood of generating business, and many firms will require (explicitly or not) that you have brought in work already.

Bottom line: almost regardless of what kind of work you do, business development will play a role.  Get started now.  Delay won’t make it easier.

I’m not good at business development!  Perhaps not.  Perhaps you’ll never be a rainmaker extraordinaire.  But you can learn some skills and you can polish your approach.  You can implement plans to make sure you’re regularly performing the activities likely to lead to new business.  Observation convinces me that, especially with some guidance and assistance from a mentor or coach, someone who is dedicated to business development will succeed.

Again, the level of success may vary (and the ease of realizing success), but one thing is certain: if you don’t try, you will not succeed.  Don’t fall prey to the lazy thought that your inexperience or discomfort with client development (or inadequate skill in it the steps that generate business) means that you can never be a sufficient rainmaker.

Feeling business development pressure?

Over the last several months, I’ve noticed more and more inquiries from lawyers wanting to focus on business development.  Unlike some coaching topics (career path and work/life integration, most notably), law firms often provide some business development training in-house to midlevel and/or senior associates as well as partners.  Many firms even provide coaching from external coaches or from in-house rainmakers.  I’d noticed a trend, with more junior lawyers seeking early business development coaching and even lawyers at firms that offer such training and/or coaching seeking it on their own, willing to pay for private, one-on-one work.  According to an article published in New York Lawyer (free registration required), this is a growing trend.

In suburban kitchens, coffee shops and back tables of restaurants across the city, law firm partners are quietly seeking the help of business development and marketing professionals on how to get out from under the shadow of that more senior partner and build their own book of business.

While it might not be as sinister as that description sounds, there is a palpable fear among some fairly high-level partners in the city’s largest firms about what their future holds. Now those partners are trying to take control of their own destiny.

In talking to a number of marketers, coaches and recruiters, there is a clear sense that in these economic times, having a portable book of business is increasingly important.

Firms are threatening de-equitizations, in-house marketing departments are facing budget cuts and partners are hoarding work more now than in the past five years, according to these industry analysts.

Given the current economy, it’s no surprise that lawyers are concerned about career potential, whether with the current firm or looking toward a new one.  If you’re in a large or midsized firm and you aren’t receiving business development attention, perhaps now would be a good time to investigate what’s available to you, through your firm or otherwise.