Well, if you’re not totally sick of people advising you on things to do during the pandemic, I hope I can help you out today. Since we are both experts, you can appreciate the importance of listening to specialists during this difficult time. We all need to sharpen our skills and make lemonade out of these nasty lemons. Lately, I’ve been observing attorneys who are acting as if business will continue as it was, doing little or nothing to recession-proof their law practice. Have we learned NOTHING from 2008?! To help those who are smarter than that, here are five simple steps to begin recession-proofing your law practice today.
Step number one, take stock of what you have and what’s changing. It’s time to properly evaluate your personal and business situation to identify threats and look for opportunities in the marketplace. Ask yourself the following questions to see how you stack up for a recession:
1. How will my practice area, prospective/existing clients and the pending recession affect my law practice for the remainder of the year?
2. What legal services can I sell during a recession? Do I have the opportunity to cross-market with my partners or strategic partners?
3. How strong is my contact list of clients, referral partners and centers of influence?
4. What percentage of my work is from my own clients versus my partners? Am I portable?
5. What do I have in the pipeline for new business in 2020 that will stick?
6. What’s the contingency plan if the firm lays me off or if my business doesn’t return?
If you read these questions and said, “oh S*#%!” it’s because you are not in a good place for sustainability in a recession. I hope you know by now that job security is based on your value to the business (yes, your law firm is a business). A lack of originations, your own clients or a strong pipeline of prospective clients will put you at serious risk. If clients leave the firm or reduce their legal spend, what are you really able to bill? To get yourself motivated to change and improve for the year, take stock of what you have. The greatest rainmakers are the ones who are motivated to get creative. Ask yourself what would motivate you to put yourself out there to grow your book. Is it money, security for your family or having a portable book? Nothing gets done without motivation and a commitment to change.
Step number two, going after low-hanging fruit. As a lawyer coach, I understand better than anyone the time pressures attorneys face every day. Between billable hours, family time and sleeping, it’s really amazing you’ve made it this far. That being said, if originations must become a part of your life, let’s focus on the easiest stuff first. By easy, I don’t mean that it’s easy to get, but rather, some business development activity will show faster results than others. Here’s my ranking of business opportunities that get real results from easiest to hardest.
Easy to hard:
• Getting more business from your existing clients. Hop on a skype or zoom to “check-in.”
• Cross marketing your clients or your partners clients to add value.
• Obtaining quality introductions from your existing clients. Use LinkedIn as it was meant!
• Leveraging your strongest relationships for direct business or quality introductions.
• Developing strategic partnerships to refer you more business.
• Build your brand on LinkedIn and social media.
• Start writing for a publication. Now you DO have the time!
• Get people together for a webinar on a COVID-19 focused legal issue.
Based on your experience doing business development and how large your network has become, you may be able to work the top of the list, while others may have to begin from the bottom. Whatever the case, it’s mission critical to do something to move the needle. You can get many of the answers to “How to get started” by reading my blog at www.fretzin.com/blog.
Step number three, get educated and fast! While this might sound like a shameless plug to hire me as your BD coach and trainer, I promise it’s not. Just do something to learn business development and marketing to ensure you aren’t stagnant in sustaining and growing your law practice. Here are three things you can do to learn these skills today!
1. Tap a more experienced business developer on the shoulder and ask for advice. While some of the more senior people may not know how to get it done in today’s environment (no offence meant here), this could be an easy way to get on the right track.
2. Read, watch and listen. There are articles, books, blogs, videos and podcasts that are directly talking to you. Get on the Google bandwagon and start researching content to learn business development. Set a goal for yourself to read, watch and listen to one-to-two hours of content a week (yes, a week), in order to improve your effectiveness when doing business development.
3. Research and hire a coach today. Again, doesn’t have to be me, just someone who understands legal and has a track record of success. This may be tough to find, but it’s worth the investment of time, money (your own, not the firms!) and energy to build a book that allows you to control your own destiny.
I know you didn’t get into law to become a “salesperson” and you don’t have to. However, learning how to market your practice is currently the best way to ensure longevity in one’s law practice.
Step number four, make a list. In step number two I shared a variety of ways to drive new business. One of the most important actions you can execute to ensure success is in creating an A, B and C list of your contacts. Statistically, we all have between 250 and 500 people that we know. It’s of critical importance to scrub your Outlook, Gmail or LinkedIn connections to determine who is at the top or bottom of that list as it relates to direct business, or connectivity to direct business. It also might help to clearly define what makes up an A, B or C relationship. For example, if your close friend is the GC of a large pharma company, she might be an “A.” Or if you have a cousin who is in the IT security space and works with mid-market software companies, he might be a “B.” Okay, here’s one to make a point. Your hair dresser who does nothing but talk about how cheap people are, might be a “C” or even a “D!”
By taking an hour to pull up, review and define your list, you will now have some direction of who to call/email and why. Then commit one morning a week to email or call two-to-five of these folks to schedule a call or video conference.
Step number five, develop your social media skills today! It doesn’t matter if you’re a big firm lawyer or solo practitioner, you’re either playing the game or being rolled over by your competition. Right now it’s a double-edged sword. There are more people on social media than ever (so why bother), while people also have the most time to spend on reading stuff (maybe it should be your stuff). Get rid of your attitude and start browsing your competition. What are they posting? Is it on-target or way off base? What could you be saying that better or more insightful?
On LinkedIn for example, you can post new content or repost others. You can like, comment and share others posts to get your name in front of new people. It’s also advisable to use LinkedIn to look through your contacts, contacts, to identify new people they can introduce you to. There’s never been a better time to learn and execute on social media, but it’s important to do it right. Invest some time learning the keys to successful use of social media and get in the game now!
To recap, you MUST focus on business development activities for lawyers that you can learn and execute upon today. There’s little value in waiting for business to improve or worse, living in hope that it will. Every lawyer needs to make a personal decision to take action or let the cards fall as they will. I hope you decide to take action and that you come out the other side better than before.
For more information about Steve Fretzin. Check out his books, podcast and blog on his website www.fretzin.com or email him directly with questions.