Last year, I read a post on LinkedIn titled, “Why Don’t Law Schools Teach the #1 Factor for Success?” It was authored by Cole Silver, director of client relations at Blank Rome, and a perusal of his profile revealed a wealth of solid, crucial advice for lawyers on how to thrive regardless of layoffs, mergers and firm closures. Because marketing is a huge stumbling block for lawyers I coach, I asked Silver for an interview.
Silver’s role at Blank Rome was created to drive revenue, coach and train lawyers on how to acquire and retain clients, bring the client’s voice, interests, goals, fears, wants, needs to the firm and bring more business disciplines and analytics to the firm. Silver has a unique perspective having served in-house as general counsel for more than 25 years.
Many lawyers are completely unprepared for the current marketplace. A theme in Silver’s writing is the benefits that come from building your own client base, like freedom, wealth, security and fun.
The Changing Marketplace
Silver says, “You wouldn’t see all these firms merging if the market were OK. This is an opportunity to grow revenue through merger because organic growth is not there whether it’s laterals or mergers. The market itself is forcing these changes.
The economy also played a role. During the financial crisis, corporations decided to bring lawyers in-house where they could pay lower fees and have individuals who are ingrained in the business. Today, over 40 percent of corporate legal spending is done in-house, so there’s less work for private law firms.
What Roadblocks do Lawyers Face?
According to Silver, “less than one-third of lawyers are interested in business development. Lawyers don’t like to take risks and are sensitive to rejection. It is rare that you find someone who is a natural-born rainmaker in the legal profession and that’s why when you look at firm revenue, it’s fairly concentrated among a small group of rainmakers.”
Beliefs also play into the resistance. Many lawyers think that “it’s sleazy, it’s beneath me, I didn’t go to law school to do it, and I don’t have the personality.” Silver counters these notions with the blunt truth: “The bottom line is this. You’re in a highly competitive business and without clients, you’re out of business. You can argue about whether the law is a business or profession until you’re blue in the face, but if you have no clients, you are not going to feed your family. A lot of times that realization comes later, when you’re in your 40s, when you have kids in college or a big mortgage … and you wake up and say, ‘Oh my God, I have no book. I’m at risk.'”
What Steps Can Lawyers Take to Develop Business?
Marketing is a learned skill, requiring a system and a process. If you are willing to learn, take some rejection, keep moving forward and want your own clients, it is an achievable goal.
Here is what Silver recommends:
- Self-analysis. “Who do you want to serve, what you are passionate about and what do you like to do? Because if you’re going to do business development just because you want to make money, but you can’t stand either the clients or the kind of work you’re doing, when the doors slam in your face, you won’t keep moving forward.”I have seen this in my coaching practice. A lawyer I worked with had a low opinion of his practice area. He never socialized with other lawyers and shunned public speaking. It had a huge impact on his revenue. You have to believe in what you offer.
- Become a trusted adviser. Be the lawyer that the client calls first, no matter the matter because they know you’ll take care of them.
- Pick a target and go after it. “Now, a lot of people in the legal profession will take a prospect to lunch or a ball game. I believe in today’s competitive world you have to be more strategic. I teach lawyers that once you pick your target you want to do incredible research on your target, meaning never go to any meeting, lunch or networking event without knowing a lot about your target. Check financial statements, look at their annual statements, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and know as much as possible about the person.”
- When you meet with your target, conduct needs analysis. “I ask what’s keeping you up at night, what’s going on in your world, and since I’ve done due diligence, I can ask questions that are relevant.”
- Continually contact your target with valuable information, help, servicing and connections. According to Silver, follow-up is where business development fails. “This has been statistically proven. The National Association of Sales Professionals has proven that it takes eight to 12 touches with value to get an engagement. They’ve also proven that most salesmen stop after three times. Lawyers stop after two.”
- Learn how and when to close. When Silver was GC, a person asked why he never gave them business and Silver replied, ”because you never asked.” Get so comfortable with asking that it becomes like a second skin.
- Study marketing. “Marketing and business development is the most important activity you’re engaged in and tclients are your most important asset. If you operate any other way, in a vacuum, that you’re some sort of scholar in the law, you should not be in private practice. You should go work for a university. And for those folks that are in-house, who think they don’t have to worry about marketing, networking and staying in touch with people, you are at greater risk because if your company is sold you could find yourself on the street with nothing.”
- Don’t worry about being a nuisance. “Lawyers are very concerned about bothering people. But the truth of the matter is that if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.” If you’re going after someone in computer software, send reports from Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, etc. It has nothing to do with law. You’re showing them that you’re thinking of them, care about them, and are more than a lawyer. You’re a business person.
- Educate. Everyone needs lawyers, but they may not know it. “Turn the law into something that is understandable, helps them and educates them to grow revenue, save money, stay out of trouble, mitigate risks and sleep better at night.”
- Improve people skills. “If you can get along with people, and you can help people and create a network around you, you will always find work, you will always find clients, you will always find that doctor that you need and you will always be protected.”
What if I Don’t Have Time for Business Development?
Silver says this can be a crutch and also a real problem. Just as I would if I were coaching someone, he suggests beginning with small goals:
- Devote just 30 minutes a day in the morning to marketing. When you get to the office, don’t turn on your email, don’t answer any phone calls, this is for you.
- Prioritize. Look at what works, what doesn’t and focus on one thing. Don’t do 100 different marketing tactics once or twice. Do one or two marketing tactics 100 times so that it’s second nature.
- Get help. It could be a hiring a coach, a coordinator to schedule meetings, virtual assistants and bloggers. Free up some time for business development.
Finally, Silver says “Forget sales. Forget business development. Forget marketing. Just go out and help people, connect with people, serve people. That’s it. If you do that, you will have a very handsome book after a few years because people will understand that you have their best interests at heart and they will reciprocate.”
Reprinted with permission from the January 25, 2017 of “The Legal Intelligencer” © 2016 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.almreprints.com.