Fishing for New Business for Your Law Practice

Steve Fretzin, his father-in-law, and his son enjoy a fishing expedition.

Recently I enjoyed the most wonderful fish fry dinner with my family. We have this special treat each summer up at my in-law’s lake house after catching walleye, perch and crappies. It’s easy to tell the difference between a good fish fry and an average one by how fresh the fish is. My wife can tell by the yummy noises I make when I’m eating. So what does this have to do with growing your law practice or building a book of business? Well, just hold your horses and let me rewind to 15 years ago when I started fishing with my father-in-law.

As everyone knows, part of the deal when you get married is the in-laws. My wife’s family hails from Milwaukee, with a lake house in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. While I’ve been around fishing for most of my life, my father in-law, Sol, has been perfecting the art for over 65 years. Fishing with him this year made me think of three analogies fishing has to business development that were spot on, so I thought I would share.

Fishing Tip #1 – Change things up

You don’t have to be a fan of fishing to understand the concept of trial and error. When we go on the lake, Sol knows all the hot spots or reefs where the fish are most likely to be. If we try for a period of time and it’s not happening for us, we try a different spot.

Now consider your efforts in business development; what’s been working and what needs to be changed up. If you’ve given a networking group a year or two and have little to no business to show for your efforts, either change your tactics for networking, or bail on the group (nicely) and try another group. Don’t feel obligated to stay longer than your original commitment if there are better or more beneficial places for you to invest your valuable time.

Fishing Tip #2 – Perfect practice

A famous name amongst Wisconsinites is Vince Lombardi, who coached the Green Bay Packers from 1959-1967 (boo Packers!). One of the most famous quotes from this five-time champion was “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Read that again. This goes against what we’ve learned our whole lives. Practicing imperfectly doesn’t make perfect. You must learn and improve in order to really practice perfectly.

Now we can fast forward the 15 years I’ve been out on Lake Winnebago. I used to feel a nibble on my line and just yank the pole up hard to hook the fish. This past weekend, I felt the fish take the line and then I waited and waited until the fish was running away with the bait before setting the hook. In days past, I would hook one or two out of ten, while today I catch more like eight out of ten. Sol was patient in explaining to me how the fish bite and what I have to do to improve my technique. I wanted to advance my skills and was eager to learn, which is 90% of the battle.

The key take-away related to improve your business development skill is to continue learning and improving how you market, prospect and sell legal services. You can’t expect a better result if you’re doing the same things over and over in an ineffective way. A good example of this is in your “pitch meetings.” Are you still convincing, solving and telling the prospective client why they should hire you? Or, have you practiced perfectly, learning that you should be asking, listening, empathizing, and qualifying before solving anything?

Fishing Tip #3 – Learn from the best

I call Sol the fisherman savant, because he can tell what kind of fish he’s caught before he even sees it. He actually feels the tug, twitch or weight on the line on his fingertips and makes the call. “It’s a walleye” he’ll announce to the delight of my son and me. Learning from someone who is so knowledgeable and talented about fishing has been a real blessing for me. My skills and confidence on the boat are night and day from where I started years ago.

Now it’s time to ask, who’s been the greatest teacher, coach or influencer in your life? Was it your basketball coach in high school or the wise mentor who headed up Labor & Employment at your firm? Learning from the best is something we all can get behind and understand.

From a business development standpoint, who are you speaking with to improve your business development skills and acumen? It’s mission critical, especially with all that’s going on right now, to find that extraordinary mentor, coach or teacher to take your business development to the next level. Invest time, energy and even your own hard-earned dollars to get ahead while you can. The most common phrase I hear from my clients is, “I only wish I had found you 20-years ago.”

Try to use the lessons from my experiences fishing to drive improvement and change to get more out of your legal career. And if you’re ever out on Lake Winnebago and see a guy drift fishing over the reefs, it might just be Sol, the best fisherman I’ve ever known.

This is a very unique and difficult time for everyone. It’s important to utilize the resources in front of you. If you are looking for more in-depth information or direct help, please visit my website at or email at [email protected] for a FREE 15-minute consultation.