Top Issues Attorneys are Having with Business Development

In working with thousands of attorneys over the past 15-plus years, I always ask the same question, “With regards to business development, what are your primary challenges, frustrations and concerns?” My clients know I call these “CFCs.” Since, apparently, I have little to do on a snowy weekend in Chicago, I’ve compiled my notes and slimmed down the list to the top five. Here they are in no particular order and how you might consider addressing them moving forward.

CFC #1. “I have no time to do business development and marketing.”

It’s not a coincidence that this issue comes first on the list. Only YOU have the ability to change your future for the better, and effectively managing your time is job number one! Failure to do so at your own career peril. The good news is that time management is a learned skill. Here are three things that might help get you on a better path:

  • Read the books, “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “Time Mastery” by Walt Hampton. Both offer invaluable tips and strategies for overcoming your time crisis.
  • Track your day (in 15-minute increments) to identify your time weaknesses. Focus on isolating the jobs you’re doing that should be delegated or outsourced. Many attorneys are doing $25-40 dollar an hour tasks, when they are billable well over $400 an hour.
  • Learn to say the word, “No.” If you’re truly serious about building your own book of business, you can’t continue to do everyone else’s work. You’ll need to free some time up in order to execute on your own business development initiatives.

CFC #2. “I have no idea how, or even where to get started.”

Are you complaining that they never taught you this in law school? That might be the number one adage I hear daily. So, you’re not alone, as until recently “sales” was never taught in any school. Again, business development is a learned skill that must be mastered to get to the finish line more quickly and with less effort. I personally know that there are three terrific books you would enjoy and get great value from reading, MINE! While this might sound like a shameless plug, I’m happy to email you free copies if you’d like. Otherwise go on Amazon and grab “Sales-Free Selling,” “The Attorneys Networking Handbook” or “The Ambitious Attorney.” For the more serious and determined attorneys, I have a variety of programs that would short-cut the learning to significantly grow your book this year. Happy to help.

CFC #3. “I’m not staying in front of my best connections for referrals.”

Whether you are really well connected or you’ve worked diligently to grow an amazing network, it’s possible that you are not fully engaging them. For many attorneys it’s all about staying top of mind, so when something comes up you’re the first call they make. Here are three simple ways to generate momentum to light up your inbox:

  • Use LinkedIn for posting, commenting and sharing. You’re already on LinkedIn, you might as well use it. Post two-to-three times a week to get your name in front of your top connections. It also doesn’t hurt to like, comment and share your best connections’ posts. Trust me, they’re watching and anxious to see who’s engaging with their content.
  • Create a list of your top 10-20 connections to email or call once a month. Ask, “how can I help you, or be a stronger resource?” Maybe the email is to congratulate them on some personal or business accomplishment. Whatever the case, don’t let these contacts get cold.
  • Outsource an email campaign or newsletter to engage your audience and provide value. Even if you’re at a mid-market or large law firm, it’s still “You, Inc.” Utilize your assistant or outsource a marketing person to execute on this for you once a month. It does make a difference in staying top of mind with 500-5000 contacts.

CFC #4. “I’m terrible at making the ask.”

Boy oh boy, you’re not alone here, my friend. This is a big one, and I totally get why. You’re not in sales, you never wanted to be in sales and you hate being sold to–and so do your contacts. My answer is, then don’t do it.

In my world, lawyers need to build trust, ask questions, actively listen and demonstrate empathy. If someone has a legal need and you follow those instructions, the prospective client will want to SELL YOU on why you should take them on as a client. While this might sound like common sense, it takes skill, practice and continual improvement to get to your desired results.

CFC #5. “I need to get in front of higher-level decision makers.”

How do you get in front of General Counsels, CEOs and Directors of HR? For most successful rainmaking attorneys, it’s all about having strong strategic partners. These are well connected professional who are trusted advisors to the decision makers, maybe like you are with your clients. The key here is to be strategic. Ask yourself, which lawyer, CPA, wealth advisor or consultant is dealing with the same decision makers I am? Consider the geography, title of the person you’d like to reach, size of business, specific industry, and other important factors to determine if the strategic partner is truly well aligned with you.

While I know these issues don’t magically go away through wishing, hoping or complaining, they are all solvable with the right mindset, learned skills and intelligent effort. As a lawyer, you’re all about solving problems and finding creative solutions. Maybe 2021 is the best time to solve the biggest challenge of all, your success in business development.