Comparing Legal Business Development to Murder Trial

One of the easiest ways to explain how to be a successful business developer is by using the analogy of a lawyer conducting a murder trial.

While this might be a strange way to illustrate my philosophy on legal business development, I ask you to bear with me as I promise you a solid “ah-ha” moment before the conclusion.

Imagine that you are engaged in the murder trial of the century.

The suspect is being held without bail and you are busy working on your case. In reviewing all of the facts, evidence and proof, all you really have is one witness. This gentleman claims to have witnessed the killing from only a few hundred feet away. Unfortunately, he is severely nearsighted, has a past criminal record and is a notorious snitch. So, how are you feeling about your case so far, counselor? How will this case hold up in court?

As you can probably imagine, due to lack of evidence this trial would never have made it very far. The reality is that to convict someone of murder there needs to be significant evidence, proof and motive.  If in preparing for this trial you had a reliable witness who saw the crime and a smoking gun as DNA evidence, you’d have a much better chance of obtaining a conviction.  In order to win any trial you need to be well prepared and have a clear understanding of your case.  This is exactly how a business developer must perform in order to more readily obtain new business opportunities.

Lawyers today must successfully identify evidence which demonstrates that a prospective client has real issues and compelling reasons before they can secure him as a new client. Here are three key areas that will improve your legal business development skills and may even help you win your next murder trial:

#1. Build a rapport with the jury.

We all know how important it is for the jury to like you. When you’re meeting with a new prospective client, make sure he likes you. In addition, invest some time at the beginning of your meeting to ask some well-prepared questions and get him talking about his favorite subject—himself. For example you might ask, “I noticed your business was rated by INC. Magazine as a top place to work in 2016. How did you build such a strong work environment?”

#2. Qualify the client to make sure your time is used wisely.

Before jumping into a big case, make sure you have a baseline understanding of what and who’s involved. If you are meeting with the CEO of a mid-market company, ask him the following questions before meeting:

“What types of challenges are you having that someone like me might help you with?”

“Who have you used in the past and why are you thinking of changing counsel?”

“Other than yourself, who else might be involved in making this decision?”

While these questions may not apply to all situations, they each have merit in helping you qualify whether someone is worth investing your time with, prior to meeting face to face.

#3. Prepare your evidence to ensure a conviction.

In this scenario, the evidence is not a smoking gun or confession. The evidence is obtained through your efforts in asking in-depth questions to understand the issues and pain points of your prospective new client. Your ability to uncover these pain points will directly impact his decision to work with you and your overall legal business development.  Here are some questions that will help you to draw out proof that this decision maker needs to hire you:

“With regards to your legal needs, what are your greatest challenges, frustrations and concerns?”

“What have you done to address this issue prior to meeting with me today?”

“How much is this problem costing you?”

“How has this problem impacted the company and you on a personal level?”

“On a scale of 1-10, how serious are these issues we’re discussing today?”

Think of the power you will hold when someone shares his deepest fears and pains with you. This approach will not only make you a trusted partner, but it eliminates the need to storm in and pitch right away. Most lawyers find it’s easiest to sell by talking about what they know best, the law. There is a term for this and it’s called “free consulting.”  The best rainmakers today are the ones that ask questions, listen and empathize.

The same skills you use in the courtroom need to be applied in the way you conduct your legal business development meetings with prospective new clients.