Challenging Times or a Good Time for Lawyers to Find New Business Opportunities?

Uncertain times call for the need to instill stability and confidence with your client. Take time to set a meeting and explore opportunities for the client and yourself. Your ability to execute and run an effective meeting with your client can mean the difference between having another year or realizing an incredible breakthrough year!  The best part, it doesn’t take much time to accomplish. You only need to have the skills to set up the meeting, ask questions and follow-up to gain the traction you’re looking for.

When meeting with an existing or past client, it’s mission critical that you actively ASK and LISTEN to get more accomplished than you may have in the past. Here’s what you probably accomplished in the past when meeting a client for lunch…

  • Socialized and built rapport
  • Discussed current and past matters
  • Enjoyed a delicious lunch…

While those are great starting points, what about…

  • Asking questions to uncover new and interesting legal issues
  • Uncovering opportunities to cross-market
  • Identifying quality introductions that could be made for you
  • Making an effort to be a resource for your client

As you can see, the difference in these two scenarios is gigantic as it relates to building long-lasting relationships, obtaining more work and truly helping your client to solve problems.  Here are three suggestions that I work on with my attorney clients to make their meetings more focused and beneficial.

Steve’s Tip #1:

Consider setting up an agenda on the phone prior to meeting your client. The idea here is that you can set yourself up to have a more impactful meeting before it has even begun. The key is to set the table with a game plan to help your client better prepare for the meeting. One way to lay the ground work is to ask, “So Barbra, before we meet for lunch next week, I wanted to set some expectations and goals for our meeting, is that okay?” She will be very agreeable to this. Then say, “Terrific. In addition to reviewing our current IP work together, I’d like to discuss your business as a whole to better understand the big picture for your growth. I know these are crazy times and a number of my clients are concerned with the state of things. Would that be alright with you?”

The point here is that you are setting the table for a more detailed conversation about her business to see the big picture and identify “gaps” in their legal strategy. This may lead to additional work for you, your firm’s partners or your referral sources that you need to keep fed.

Steve Tip #2:

The next step is to come to the meeting with some great questions that may lead to additional work or cross-marketing opportunities. Try to keep the questions open ended and work off of her responses to take a deeper dive if possible. Here are a few sample questions and the possible follow up questions that will allow you to dig deeper. In this example, I’ll be an IP attorney at a full-service firm.

  • With all of the craziness going on politically, what are some of your greatest concerns as it relates to your business?

    >  Tell me more about that?

  • Tell me more about the other legal work that you deal with that isn’t focused in IP?

    >  How are they taking care of you and your sensitivity to excessive billing?

  • Where are the key growth areas for the company this year?

    >  How can I help you to achieve those goals?

  • In doing IP work with many international companies, many of my clients ask me employment and immigration questions. Tell me about the recent and future issues you see occurring in these areas?
  • I know you’ve mentioned to me on several occasions how pleased you’ve been with my work the past few years. Who else should I be speaking with that might be able to utilize my experience?

    >  Would you be open to speaking with him about me and the successes we’ve had together to ensure he’ll be open to speaking with me?

  • Other than legal specific work, how can I be of value to you or your company?

    >  What other business issues are you having?

As you can see from these examples, there are so many paths that you can go down to find new opportunities. If your client is open to these questions, you may uncover that she is dissatisfied with her current counsel or that there’s a blind spot in their business that may put her at risk. Asking questions shows a level of caring on your part, because you want to learn more about her business and assist wherever possible. A win-win if ever there was one.

Steve’s Tip #3:

Okay, you’ve set the table and asked the questions. Now you have to follow up and discuss next steps. If there’s a legal issue, then set up a follow up call to review. If there’s an introduction that’s been offered, set up a next step to ensure that it’s followed through on. When dealing with an extremely busy client who has offered up a quality introduction, you may want to ask, “I know how busy you get Barbra. If I don’t hear from you regarding your friend Bob, how would you like me to follow up with you?” This question is terrific for moving the introduction forward and having a non-pesky way of checking in without bothering your client too much.

Put your clients first. Challenging and uncertain times mean your clients need you more.  Use this opportunity to discover additional work and introductions by asking good questions, listening, and following up. Working closely with your client and having effective meetings with them may just turn these uncertain times to a good time to find new business opportunities.