Having spoken with thousands of lawyers in the almost 20 years I’ve been consulting, I’ve identified three universal challenges to business development success. Do any of these sound uncomfortably familiar to you?
1. “I don’t know what to do.” There’s so much information out there about how to bring in new cases and clients and, even more importantly, how to ensure that your current clients are satisfied — no, delighted — with the service you provide. Sometimes, having lots of good information is overwhelming. When I work with someone on business development, one of the first things we focus on (after clearly identifying the goal at hand) is to simplify tasks, according to a targeted plan. Don’t flail around and try “the latest thing.” Figure out what works well for you and do it consistently.
2. Mindset challenges. The challenges that we create for ourselves (and please note that I am including myself here!) vary dramatically. I’ve heard all of the following:
- Business Development is easier for them (men, women, lawyers in big firms, lawyers in small firms, litigators, transactional lawyers, and on and on and on).
- Everything I do has to be perfect, and I’m busy getting ready to get out there. (This crops up a lot with lawyers who see speaking, writing, and holding leadership positions in an organization as a good route for business development.)
- I have to do it all myself, so I’m going to clear the decks and then get started.
- I’m too young.
- I’m too old.
- I tried [insert activity here] and it didn’t work, so why should I bother?
- My technical skills are so good, that I don’t need to market.
There may be at least a grain of truth to each of these rationalizations (and the infinite variations that exist), but buying into these statements is a huge red flag. These “reasons” justify a lack of success and perhaps even a lack of effort. Neither leads to great results.
3. “I don’t have enough time to get my work done and live, and now I should add on business development activities? You’ve got to be kidding me.” This obstacle is the most valid and therefore the most insidious. It also plays into the mindset obstacles, because very often a lawyer who holds a negative belief about client development will sink more and more time into fruitless business development activity. Imagine, for instance, a lawyer who polishes an article to the point of “perfection,” only to find that it’s no longer newsworthy. Fortunately, you can implement three steps to create time for business development: prioritization, systemization, and delegation.