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Business development is an art not a science. While proper techniques can be taught, it is the creativity and skill of the artist that makes all the difference.

As a practicing attorney, you are focused on building your book, “making rain,” and navigating your way to partner. As the managing partner you are focused on building top line revenues for your firm. As a sole practitioner, you are focused on building your business into a vibrant law firm. While unique in some respects, all three situations require the knowledge and effective deployment of good business development techniques.

  • training and technical assistance
  • advisory services
  • policy and advocacy support
  • marketing assistance
  • market access services
  • infrastructure services
  • promoting business linkages and
  • support for technology and product development.

Targeting

Take inventory of what you have and what you know. What type of law do you practice? What constitutes an ideal client? What are their needs? Are there industries where you have had previous success? Do you have specialized skills? Knowing the answers to these questions enables you to develop a list of the best places to find clients.

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Identifying

Once you’ve identified the best places to find potential clients, the next step is to identify the person(s) most likely to engage you. It is important to determine who “buys” your services and who are the ultimate “decision makers.” In some firms it may be the General Counsel but in others it could be the CFO, President, or perhaps even the business owner. Pitching the wrong person will never yield the results you are looking for.
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Positioning

You have experience, a good track record, and a great reputation. How do these help the ultimate decision maker solve a problem or build their business? Think about the challenges or issues affecting your targeted clients and their business impact. Once you grasp this, work to develop ways to communicate how you, your experience, and your firm can help with these challenges and solve these issues.
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Presenting

Often attorneys spend too much time “selling” a prospect on their firm, their facilities, credentials, and success stories. Many attorneys run out of time or neglect to ask questions and miss valuable opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with prospects to learn about ways to provide help.
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Closing

For many attorneys, closing is often one of the most difficult parts of the business development process. However, it need not be. Since you have established good rapport and a working relationship with the decision maker, you have earned the right to “ask for their business.” Begin by recapping the key points of your discussion. Then review the prospect’s desired outcome and the importance of moving quickly ahead on the matter. Next, clearly restate the benefits of working with you and why it is their best option. Finally, present the engagement letter and ask for a signature and commitment to proceed.
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Follow up

Follow up is one of the most important but oft neglected skills. Once a matter resolves, regardless of the outcome, stay with the client. Unless you’ve been summarily dismissed, there is no such thing as a former client. While you may not be active with a current file, a client is still a client. Leverage the relationship you’ve painstakingly built for additional business. Remember the 80-20 rule: 80% of business comes from 20% of your clients, but only if you continue the relationship.

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