The key to developing your law practice is staying at the top of the minds of your clients, referral sources, and contacts. Some lawyers are natural rainmakers, while others have to work at it. But even natural rainmakers use an organized, thoughtful approach to business development.
How to start
Begin with a master list of your contacts to remind yourself of people who might be able to help you in the future or with whom you’d like to reconnect. Your list can include current, past, and potential clients; current and past referral sources; co-counsel on cases or friendly opposing lawyers; undergraduate and law school friends; law school professors; and political, community, or social acquaintances. This is a huge but worthwhile task. It helps you determine your top priorities for contacts.
Managing, tracking, and categorizing contacts
There are several software programs to help manage your of contacts. You can use client relationship management software, Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Word, or Evernote. Pick a program you already use or one easy to learn.
Place your contacts in categories such as:
- Past and present clients you want to reconnect with
- Law school classmates now working for companies or possible referring law firms
- Bar association colleagues
- Acquaintances you like but have lost contact with
- Friends who have not used your services
Next, establish your highest priority contacts—those involving relationships that should be nurtured such as your best clients or referral sources or those that could be potential referral sources. You can then organize your list by the frequency of contact.
Setting objectives and planning your approach
It’s important to set objectives for your relationships. Perhaps a client might need other services the firm has to offer and you introduce him to colleagues who practice in those fields. For your best clients, you may simply want to show them you appreciate their business with tickets to a show or a sporting event.
It is important for you to plan your approach to building relationships. For large companies, perhaps a breakfast meeting with an update on where the company is going and how you can help is an option. For a fisherman, you might take them a fly guaranteed to catch that trout on the Au Sable. For a labor union officer, you might suggest co-authoring an article.
Business development is called a contact sport because the more communication you have with someone, the more likely they are to refer to you when they or someone they know has a legal problem. Your list will grow and change over time, but if you have an organized method of tracking of contacts, managing your business development will become an easy-to-maintain habit.
Roberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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