The Legal Language of Business Development

Understanding and using the legal language of business development may mean utilizing existing relationships to grow a book of business. One of the greatest challenges for any attorney is the genuine discomfort of asking for business from friends, family and clients.

Reasons for this typically include:

  • Fear of rejection;
  • The impression of being too “salesy”; or
  • The mindset that you wouldn’t want someone asking you for something.

Sound about right?

One of the best ways to get on track as it relates to growing your book of business is to leverage the low hanging fruit that is all around you. The best way to do this is by focusing on your best contacts and using some specific language to help you overcome the “head-trash” that you may be experiencing. Scripting out a few words before making a call like this may be the difference between obtaining five new clients this year or none at all. By the way, waiting for the phone to ring is not an effective and proactive strategy to growing your book this year.

Here are a few scripts that have been very successful for my clients to assist in obtaining new business from a friend, family member, referral source and even a successful client. These scripts can be used to set up the meeting beforehand or during the meeting.

The key to success with these scripts is to:

  • Make the script a part of the conversation.
  • Make sure the script is used in a conversational manner.
  • The script should be permission based.
  • Be sure to adjust and adapt each script to your own personality and style.

Script #1- A friend where you’ve never discussed business before:

“I was thinking that we haven’t really had the opportunity to discuss our businesses with one another and it might be valuable to learn more about what each other does as new issues come across our desks. Would you be open to a lunch where we learn more about one another and see if there are synergies?”

Script #2- A long-time family member where you’ve never discussed business before:

“I’d love the opportunity to grab a coffee or lunch with you in the next week or two. We see each other every year, however I don’t really know a great deal about what you do. I’d love to learn more about your business and see how I can be a resource for you moving forward. I’d also enjoy sharing a little about what I do, as I know you run into people regularly with legal concerns. Are you free on… (provide specific dates).”

Script #3- A lawyer or past referral source that you believe may have business for you:

“In addition to catching up next week when we meet for lunch, I’d like to share some possible contacts with you that might be beneficial to your business/practice. I’ve been really focused lately on helping people who have helped me in the past. I’d also like to pick your brain for ideas on contacts that might make sense for what I’m doing. Is that okay with you?”

Script #4- A “happy” past or existing client who is well connected, but not currently offering you referrals:

“Before we meet on (date), I thought it might be helpful to think of some business connections that might be good for one another. As you know, I’m looking to meet (name a specific type of prospective client). If you’re open to it, let’s come up with a few names prior to meeting, that way we can both get more value from our time together.”


“I know you’ve been very happy with the work I’ve done over the past few years and I was thinking that you may know other business owners who would appreciate the high-level work I perform. Would you be open to discussing a few contacts with me when we meet for lunch next week? It would be really meaningful to me.”


“There’s something I’d like to ask of you and it goes outside of my comfort zone a little, but it’s important to me. I know how well connected you are and I was hoping that you’d be open to discussing some possible connections with me during our lunch next week. Is that something we can chat about?”

While there are many different ways to approach the people you know for introductions, my clients have found that success happens when you try the scripts and begin to see results from your efforts.

Speak the legal language of business development by adapting these scripts. Lawyers will only see the proof of getting introductions and leads if they these themselves. Doing this over time and having some success in it will build your confidence and make speaking the language of business development a natural transition.

This is a modified version of the article published by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on April 21, 2017.