Business generation is going to be the bane to my existence. I’m a highly regarded mid level at my firm (in terms of work product), but my colleagues (that are, quite frankly, incompetent) seem to be getting further ahead solely due to the business they bring in, which is usually attributed to their wealthy friends/family businesses. I do networking everywhere I go, but I just can’t seem to land the commercial clients I need. Any advice?

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Good advice above .... Articles, speaking, networking are all important. And — if you can tell which of those are working — you might be alone in the early rainmaker universe. Develop your resume consistently in your practice area.

You absolutely need to follow up with your leads. More than once. You need to find a way to keep in front of them. Have had a developed lead bear fruit years later, after I thought it was dead.

If you will forgive what may be an incorrect presumption based on the language of your post ... Do not comfort yourself too much with the knowledge that you are a better lawyer than your internal competitors. I know what you mean, and it is important, and you should be proud of it. BUT, the client development path is — most typically — one of slow accretion and absolutely necessary. It is the difference between a worker bee and a rainmaker which is an income factor of two or three. For life. It matters.

If you have to choose between great lawyer with no book or good lawyer with good book (as much as we detest mediocrity) the latter is clearly the better choice. The real world does not care about your grades or how great your brief was. They will want to know whether you have clients. So will your partners.

Not a natural seller myself. Lots of great books and teachers. Effort and self-training can pay off big. Just do not kid yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter or that the system must be corrupt because ..... Just make it happen .....

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Sincerely appreciate that and may take you up on the offer!

Some that worked/work for me:
— Join, attend, and speak at industry conferences (for industry, in-house, not Bar seminars or for outside counsel). Network at the conferences, get contact info, and follow up regularly with issue updates and meet for lunch. Don’t give them your card, get their info, and follow up.

— Get to know officers, reps of your firm’s current clients, do good work for them and develop a rapport, and ASK for referrals (I really enjoyed working with you on this deal. If you wouldn’t mind my asking, I am building my practice and if there’s anyone you know who you think I could assist I would certainly appreciate it if you referred me to them or gave them my name.) Also keep in touch. Sometimes officers go to a new company, and then they might appreciate your being able to help them there.

- Find other ways to get your name out there. Send email updates on matters of interest to contacts you make, regularly, like once every week or other week. Write some articles and have them highlighted on LinkedIn, etc.

— Most important, write up your business dev plan, and then calendar bus dev tasks and stick to it. Invest in the long term, months and even years. Don’t get discouraged, it takes time and effort but if you stick to it the business will come.

Good work, good communication and developing friendships and rapport, with your connections, will pay off, but you have to invest in your development.

helpfulsmart

All of these points are really helpful. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight and what has worked for you. Oftentimes, I find myself invested for about a month or so, but then a number of work related projects/trials/emergencies arise and, admittedly, I drop the ball a bit and need to work towards re-sparking a connection (and get back out there, so to speak). It sometimes feels like bus dev is another full time job. As a junior/rising mid level, I’m still trying to find the right balance. In light of COVID—since I’m not traveling anytime soon—I’m considering using some of my vacation time to develop a pointed plan for myself. Your points will likely serve as my initial template for a plan to further develop. Thanks again—I appreciate this.

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Take Steve Fretzin’s course, steve@salesresultsinc.com. He’s the go to guy for lawyer business development. People who follow his program swear by him. But you have to really follow the program.

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I’m most definitely going to look into this. Thank you for sharing!

What type of law do you practice? I'm in real estate transactional, and a couple of good brokers on your side can go a long way, as can having law school classmates or former work colleagues in in-house positions.

helpful

I’m a general commercial litigator, so I’m a bit all over the place in terms of practice areas (I have cases ranging from IP, to condo/coop, to L&E), but, am okay with being the point person between a client and a colleague in another dept, if the potential client was seeking advice in a space that was not my speciality. I definitely try to make all the connections I can. I actually have a few brokers’ information from weddings last year, but, still nothing. Admittedly, I need to work harder at staying top of mind for these folks. But, it’s truly another job.

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Are you asking for business? I know that is a touchy subject because you dont want to just be "Hi, i just met you, but want to do business with me and my firm?"

But sometimes actually asking people you have established relationships with makes a difference. I suffered for a long time from the belief that my network would know I was in search for clients.

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This is an exceptionally helpful point. I typically shy away from asking that question outright because I feel like it may come off too bold or brash. But, maybe you’re right. If I was just straightforward with asking people directly—who knows—maybe that’d spark something. Those I maintain in my network certainly know I’m an attorney and that I’m well versed in handling litigations, but may not realize that I’m trying to get their business directly at times. Thanks for this. I may reconsider my approach with some ppl.

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Good points MP1.
Real point here for those just getting their feet wet in bus dev, or shying away from it — it’s necessary in private practice, and it’s absolutely doable for everyone. Not a natural seller or marketer either, was a brief guy early on, built my client base the d fashioned way, hard work and commitment.
It’s also extremely rewarding when you have established the ongoing relationships that business dev is all about.

helpful

Thank you for this. It’s nice to hear from others—who aren’t natural sellers themselves—that still have success in this space. I feel as if you’re describing me: tried getting my feet wet, shied away feeling discouraged (after spending a ton of time at events and writing articles with nothing to show for it), and prefer to use my time focusing on perfecting my briefs and work. I was close a few times, but the potential clients resolved their, respective, disputes on their own, in light of COVID/court closures. But, I will say that it felt like Christmas morning when the referral call initially came in. So, you are spot on with the rewarding aspect (not just on a monetary level). I recognize I need to dedicate more time for this, and not just throw in the towel when things don’t come to fruition right away. Thank you for sharing this!

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Glad my thoughts helped. It’s easy to get discouraged in bus dev because, usually, it takes time. Also keep in mind that most efforts won’t pan out - the more you do for bus dev the more chances you create. Develop and keep in touch with your connections.

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Write articles.

I’ve written a few, along with tons of legal alerts/announcements, but wonder if anyone is ever really reading them. I’ve also spoken on a few panels, but feel like most get clients strictly through referrals. The struggle is real.

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