Legal Business Development lessons from…Seinfeld??

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge Seinfeld fan. I’ve probably seen each hilarious episode four or five times.

Even with the massive amount of shows being pumped out of Netflix, Amazon Prime and countless others, I haven’t seen a show that literally makes me laugh out loud as much as Seinfeld (Big Bang is a close second). So, you might be wondering, what does that have to do with business development as a lawyer? Here are five funny situations or lines from Seinfeld that I have miraculously turned into a teachable moment. 

Seinfeldism #1 – The Telemarketer

One of the best lines or scenes in the history of television is when Jerry gets a phone solicitation at home. We all know how annoying and disruptive they are, so we usually just screen them out or hang up immediately when they start talking. Jerry does one better. He tells a telemarketer that he’s busy now but would be happy to call the solicitor later when “he’s” at home. When the solicitor objects and says he doesn’t want to be disturbed at home, Jerry says, “now you know how I feel” and hangs up on him. NICE! 

The takeaway on the BD front is how unwanted selling, is, well, unwanted. My suggestion to all attorneys is to STOP convincing, selling and pitching. Start off on the right foot by demonstrating your expertise and differentiation in the marketplace by providing value to others through effective social media posts, videos and articles. Then, when you do have an opportunity to sell, don’t do it. Focus on building relationship, asking questions, listening and empathizing with your new prospective client. You’ll be amazed at how “bought in” he or she will be. 

Seinfeldism #2 – The Contest

If you haven’t seen this episode, you are missing out on TV gold! Jerry and his gang have a contest to see who can hold out the longest… . While I’m not able to share the specifics of the contest in this “G-rated” article, feel free to look it up.

The “ah-ha” moment here is to engage your competitive mindset with others to achieve a goal or accomplishment. This could be a group or the partner in the office next to you. Have a competition on who can complete their business/marketing plan for 2021 first or who can get the bigger bonus off of new originations in 2021. Even if you’re a solo, you can find another lawyer who may be willing to compete with you. Whatever the case, getting others to share in something fun and financially rewarding can’t be a bad thing. 

Seinfeldism #3 – Yada, Yada, Yada

When George’s girlfriend mentions that her ex-boyfriend was over the other night and “yada, yada, yada,” she was tired the next day, he loses his mind. This is another Seinfeld gem that not only displays George’s insecurities, but shows how people can gloss over the details to get to the end of the story without sharing the much-needed specifics. 

This is so relevant as we leave 2020 in the rearview mirror and approach 2021 with a specific and detailed approach to growing one’s law practice. Anyone can say, “I’m going to develop business in 2021 and yada, yada, yada, I’m sure I’ll have my best year ever.” All lawyers need to consider a written plan that outlines and details the specific actions that will lead to your best year ever.  This doesn’t have to be an MBA 30-page novel, but rather a two-three pager that provides direction on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Happy to share a sample plan and explanation with you if you email me at [email protected]

Seinfeldism #4 – Elaine’s Crazy Dance

I think everyone has a friend who is a terrible dancer. Maybe they know it or maybe not. In this episode, Jerry’s friend Elaine is seen dancing at a work party in front of her entire staff. What she doesn’t know is that she’s the worst dancer EVER! Obviously, the fact that she’s clueless about it makes this super funny. 

The take-away here is that you might be a terrible networker and not even realize it. There are still lawyers out there pushing business cards or aggressively asking for business without any thought of reciprocation or connecting the other party. I have found that in many cases, the lawyer doesn’t realize his/her skills are outdated or inappropriate. When I see a networker making these mistakes, I don’t immediately discount them or toss them aside like yesterday’s Amazon box. It may be possible that with a little help, support and coaching, this person could turn things around. By the way, if you’re getting referrals from people without helping them in return, you might be the person I’m describing. 

Seinfeldism #5– The Soup Nazi

For you Seinfeld fans, I couldn’t leave you hanging. This is not only one of the best episodes, it’s also so crazy and ridiculous, you’ll never forget it. There’s a new soup take-out joint in the neighborhood and it’s the best (the best Jerry, the best!). There’s only one problem. The Chef running the restaurant is very, very strict. This doesn’t end well for George who asks for bread and thusly gets his soup taken away from him. “No soup for you!” exclaims the Chef.

Getting to the biz-dev takeaway, you must consider what you are willing to do to get your delicious soup or decide to go your own direction and find another great place to eat.

From a legal business development point of view, there isn’t only one good way to develop business. If the method you’re trying isn’t working, then simply try something else. Years ago, I was in a legal networking association. I found it to be dry, isolating and clannish. It didn’t take me too long to realize this wasn’t going to be enjoyable or beneficial to my business, so I bounced. There are dozens of ways to grow business as a lawyer, so don’t stay too long or feel there’s only one avenue to go down.

My suggestion for 2021, focus on your low-hanging fruit. Make a list of your clients, top referral sources and best friends to meet up with and selflessly help connect them. They should reciprocate with a little coaching, which may lead to easy business for you. 

If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, I hope you enjoyed us sharing a couple of fun moments and takeaways together. If you’ve never seen it, give it a try and I hope it makes your belly hurt like it does mine. Either way, make 2021 your best year ever through proper planning, execution and follow through. Happy holidays, everyone!