The task of developing business in a law firm setting is not something that happens overnight. There are no tips, tricks, or tools that can change the fact that business development is a long-term game. For young lawyers, it is never too early to start thinking about how to succeed in this important component of their careers. Below are tips for young lawyers on how to hone their rainmaking skills.
Find Their Personal Brand
For young lawyers, understanding their brand and what makes them a unique practitioner is essential to becoming a good lawyer and a good business developer. Everyone wants to be an expert, trusted, and reliable. Young lawyers need to go deeper than that and find out what makes them unique. One place for them to start is by thinking about what they want people to say about them after working on a matter with them. Working backward from that, they can figure out how their actions can support those values. Once they understand their personal brand, they can communicate that to their clients and partners at their firm.
In a recent survey from BTI Consulting Group, clients responded that 21% of them have never met their relationship partner and 65% aren’t engaging in this high-value activity. Additionally, a Deloitte study revealed that the vast majority of clients are seeking complimentary advice across disciplines and borders. Continued personal investments make client relationships grow, and collaboration is the easiest and fastest way to cultivate deep and long-lasting client relationships. For young lawyers, brainstorming and collaborating with their clients and prospects goes a long way. It gives them valuable insight on how their client or prospect thinks about issues, risk, and their law firm partners.
Play to Their Strengths
There are several ways to develop business as a lawyer. If a young lawyer can’t find a type of business development that they enjoy it’s always going to feel like a chore. Associates should try as many kinds of business development opportunities as they can and try them each a few times to decide what they like. This includes activities like mastering networking at conferences, thought leadership, and building effective referral networks. This is their opportunity to experiment and find what works for them.
Keep an Up-to-Date Business Plan
Effective business planning is essential for a young lawyer’s career. Personal business planning is about taking inventory of where they are, determining where they want to go, and establishing a roadmap to get there. Since developing their book of business can take years, a business plan focuses them on what they need to do to ensure that they’ll develop the type of book of business they want. An effective business plan should include primary goals and objectives, value propositions, target client lists, actions they’ll take to develop their personal profile, and an action tracker.
Leverage Internal Resources
Another way to generate clients is by leveraging insight from the partners within an associate’s firm. Start by identifying partners that have had success building a book of business. It doesn’t need to be limited to only the partners the young lawyer works with on matters. They can seek out partners in other service areas who are successful and offer to get them out of the office for lunch or coffee so the associate can pick their brain. Their direct experience with clients and prospects can help accelerate a young lawyer’s personal growth. Tapping into marketing and business development teams is also an asset. Many of them are able to help a young lawyer develop the tools they need, such as building their personal brand, understanding how the sales process works, negotiating, how to build a network, and more.
Build a Network
A lawyer’s network is their most valuable professional asset, it travels with them from firm to firm and will help them develop business in surprising ways. Of course a young lawyer can, and should, build their network at conferences, trade groups, and other networking events. But they also need to think of their existing network: law school classmates, neighbors, even other parents on the PTA can be assets in their professional network. The most important part of building a network is follow-up. Meeting someone isn’t enough, a young lawyer needs to connect with them on LinkedIn, send them a note after their meeting, and continue to check-in. The process of building a network is like going to the gym, it takes a long time and a lot of work to see results, but those results are worth it.