What’s your agenda?

One of my favorite questions is, “What’s your agenda?” I’ve noticed, however, that we tend not to ask that question of ourselves often enough.

Setting an agenda is a classic time management strategy. If you’re looking to make meetings shorter and more productive, circulate an agenda in advance and expect everyone to come prepared. If you want to make your day more productive, set your own agenda. Of course, other issues may arise in the course of the meeting or the day, but if you set your agenda first, you’ll at least know what you intended to accomplish and you won’t lose track of necessary tasks.

Knowing your agenda is critical for networking. Meeting new people requires you to have a sorting agenda in place: do you want to meet lawyers, bankers, or parents? Are you interested in officers in closely-held businesses, or would you prefer to meet officers in public corporations? Knowing who you want to meet will help you to identify the best groups to investigate and to target the right people for follow-up, which is where the networking magic happens, if at all.

Having an agenda is the difference between effective follow-up meetings and purposeless coffee dates that accomplish nothing. If you have some idea of what you’d like to discuss during a follow-up meeting, you’ll be able to tailor your conversation to be sure that you ask the right questions or offer the right information. It’s easy to wing it for follow-up meetings, but taking a few minutes to think about what you want from the meeting will make you much more effective.

Finally, when you’re talking with someone with whom you’re considering joining forces (for marketing or to form a new practice, for example) ask them directly (or ask yourself) what their agenda is.  Poorly phrased, the question is a bit confrontational, but the more you know or intuit about someone else’s objectives, the better your decisions will be.

Take a few minutes to answer these questions (or others that fit your circumstances):

  • What’s your agenda for today?
  • What’s your agenda for your practice?
  • What’s your client’s agenda?

What’s the best way to grow your practice?

One of the keys to success is efficient and effective action.  We all know that’s true in billable work, and we study time management and time mastery to find ways to optimize daily activity.

Nowhere is this principle truer than in business development.  Most lawyers don’t get excited at the prospect of undertaking rainmaking activity, and thrashing about aimlessly (meaning, inconsistenly and without a solid strategy) is almost guaranteed to produce poor results.  And poor results tend to produce a heavy sigh and a, “See, I knew I’m not destined to be a rainmaker” attitude – which tends to doom future action.  It’s a nasty cycle, and avoiding that cycle entirely is much easier than breaking it once it’s started.

So, it follows that the best way to grow your practice is by taking consistent, strategically determined steps toward your goals for you practice.  Once you become aware of the importance of consistency and strategy in rainmaking, you’ve unlocked the first key to business development success.

However, you still have to know what to do, and that’s the source of the popular question, “What’s the best way to grow my practice?”  It isn’t possible to give a blanket answer for every lawyer and every practice.  Advertising, for example, is a good tactic for some practices, especially those that depend on immediate and urgent need and a high volume of matters.  It’s less likely to pay off for practices that center on more complex matters that are ilkely to generate high fees.

One rainmaking tactic, however, tends to perform well no matter the practice area:  making personal contacts.

As Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals, wrote, “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.”  In other words, the more people who know you and think well of you, the more likely you are to receive business and referrals.

While you might argue about whether all things are ever equal, think about how you select any servicee professional you hire.  Whether you’re looking for a dentist, a house painter, a baby sitter, or a lawyer, chances are that you check with at least one or two or your contacts to get a referral, and a significant number of clients who seek your services will do the same.  Knowing more people increases the chance that someone in need of your services will find out about you.

Likewise, your current and former clients know and, one would hope, like and trust you.  They also have had the experience of working with you, so they know how you serve clients and may be able to evaluate, to some extent, your legal ability.  As a result, current and former clients may be even more likely to refer business to you and, where your practice is amenable, bring you additional work themselves.

So, the bottom line is that the more people you know, the more likely you are to bring in new business.  And it follows naturally that, without knowing any information about your specific practice or your strengths, my top recommendation for growing your law practice is to work on increasing your network of contacts, consistently and strategically.

Consider these questions to kick-start your networking:

  • Are most of your clients referrals, or do clients contact you directly?
  • Where do your ideal clients congregate?
  • Where do your ideal referral sources congregate?
  • What organizations offer a natural fit for your practice, by virtue of subject area or membership, and how can you get involved?

If you’d like to learn more about where and how to network, you may want to investigate The Reluctant Rainmaker: Business Development for Lawyers Who Hate Selling.  You’ll find step-by-step recommendations on how to begin networking and how to become a master at growing connections with the right people to advance your law practice.  Visit to learn more and to pick up your copy today.