Top 5 Business Development Snafus to Avoid When Building Your Law Practice

By Steve Fretzin

With 2020 knocking on our front door, it might be time to take stock and look to make changes in the new year.  If you’ve read my column before, you know I always give away a few solid tips and ideas to help grow business and sustainability. This month I’ll provide five of my top 10 tips that focus on the missteps which affect a lawyer’s ability to be successful in growing his or her law practice. I’ll provide the other five in my next column of The Origination Station. Enjoy!

Snafu #1 – Not using your calendar to schedule time for business development

Today we use our calendars for everything we need to accomplish or follow-through on. Why not use it for scheduling time to make calls and sending out emails to grow your practice? It may only take 15-30 minutes a week to get out three to five emails to schedule time with your clients, strategic partners or friends who are GC’s. Try to do this on Monday morning before the day or week hits you in the face. Just having those emails out there will get you meetings, while also improving your attitude about business development. You did some!

Snafu #2 – Not setting clear agendas in networking meetings

Most attorneys take on networking coffee meetings that end up going nowhere. I teach my clients early on that time is money, and of the importance in setting clear agendas to make the best use of everyone’s time. By establishing clear expectations and outcomes at the beginning of each meeting, you will find greater results than you ever thought possible. Here’s some of the points to follow:

  • Make it permission based. You could say, “In order to make the best use of our time today, can I set up a little game plan for our meeting today?”
  • Keep it to an hour (unless it’s going really well).
  • Suggest that splitting up the talk time would be wise. Have her/him go first in order to adjust when it’s your turn.
  • Offer up the concept that both parties will try to identify one or two really good connections for one another before leaving the table.

They say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is your opportunity to help someone and have them help you.

Snafu #3 – Not creating call/email lists for business development

So, you’ve committed time to making calls and emailing contacts for coffee meetings– great! Now you find yourself in front of your desk staring at your screen. Come on now! It is critical to create a list of A, B and C contacts before getting serious about scheduling meetings. I define these contacts as:

  • A’s are best relationship and best opportunity.
  • B’s are good relationship and best opportunity or best relationship and good opportunity.
  • C’s are good relationship and good opportunity or you’re not sure.

One way or another, without a list you are waaaay less likely to schedule meetings and have a thoughtful approach to your contacts.

Snafu #4 – Not developing a prospecting plan for business development

You have a plan for a deposition or a trial, but no plan for growing your book. For shame! Time 60 to 90 minutes to sit down and create a simple plan that you can follow. Start big picture with your primary goal and then work backwards to identify the low-hanging fruit and best approaches to obtain the business. Email me at [email protected] to obtain a sample plan you can follow.

Snafu #5 – Not leveraging your partners for cross-marketing opportunities

Imagine the largest conference table in your office and it’s stacked with $100 bills five feet high. Would you go and grab a bag of it or leave it sitting there untouched for eternity?  This is what’s happening in most law firms with their lack of cross-marketing. You have the opportunity to originate work (with full credit) and then you don’t have to execute on it! Where do I sign up for this? Schedule time to meet with 3-5 of your best partners in different practice areas to learn their client’s hot buttons. This will make you money and save you time when building your book.

As mentioned earlier, this is only half of the snafus I will be sharing with you before the end of the year. Try to focus on one or two of these subjects and I know you’ll improve your business development efforts quickly. Remember, without having your own book of business you are more susceptible to a pending recession. Take control of your career by building and growing your own network and client base.