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American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice


Vol. 6, No. 2




Bright Ideas for Drumming Up Clients 24/7

By David C. Sarnacki

Bold ideas and practical tips for business development

Practical Tips—Client Maintenance

Set forth a consistent and professional image. Clean your office of files and unnecessary clutter. Don’t make clients wait for more than five minutes. Make sure your entire staff projects that the client’s legal matter is of utmost importance to you and everyone in the firm.

Monitor your receptionist for impeccable service and manners. Call the office frequently to see how clients are greeted (delays, number of rings, etc.). Make sure the receptionist knows when a client is expected and greets him or her warmly and by name.

Communicate clearly and regularly with clients. Talk with them in person and over the telephone. Send letters and handwritten notes. Put clients on the mailing list for newsletters or other firm communications. Have breakfast or lunch with them. Always return client telephone calls as soon as possible or within 24 hours. If you are unavailable, have a staff member do so. Smile when you answer the phone-you can’t help but sound more pleasant. Don’t use a speaker phone unless absolutely essential.

Review all correspondence (letters and envelopes) for layout, presentation, typos, and overall flow. Make sure the client receives a “clean” copy of all pertinent documents and correspondence and include a folder, imprinted prominently with your name, address, and telephone number. Place “Drafted by ______” on all instruments you draft to show pride in your work and then encourage the client to contact you with questions or changes.

Keep your promises . When you tell your client a project will be completed by a certain date, meet or exceed that date and your client’s expectations. Occasionally offer to meet at the client’s office, instead of your own. Order a subscription to a trade publication that focuses on your client’s business. Consider doing business with clients—use their services and products.

Send thank-you notes to acknowledge your retention; a card or newspaper clipping to congratulate a client on an award, promotion, or speech they’ve given; birthday, holiday, and special-occasion congratulatory cards to clients and former clients. Include clients’ family members. Send announcements to clients regarding new legal developments or your own continuing legal education and advancement as well as notes on recent changes to the law or new cases that might be of interest to your client. Always send a sympathy note when someone you know dies.

Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do today to improve the quality of service to my clients?”

Provide written fee agreements to clients. Make sure that regular invoices are understandable. If unexpected events increased the fee, include a note or suggest a conference to discuss it. Consider sending a note to detail work in process or how you are saving the client money. Send thank-you notes to acknowledge prompt payment.

Throughout the case, ask clients how you are doing. How are the firm’s services? The billings? The quality of work? The client’s relationships with people at the firm? Is there anything more the client wants from the firm?

Send thank-you notes to acknowledge prompt payment.

Create a client survey and make it available in the reception area or during the initial interview or mail it to the client. Make sure the client understands that the survey is voluntary but extremely helpful and may be submitted anonymously. Invite the client to describe what you do well and what you do not do so well. Then thank the client at the end of the case.

Practical Tips—Cross-Selling

Prepare and rehearse an answer to the often-asked question, “What kind of lawyer are you?” Be sure your answer includes that you can help with any legal problem, either directly or through referral to someone inside or outside your firm.

Tell clients at every opportunity of the range of legal services you or others in your firm provide. Let clients who own businesses know the full range of legal services you provide and can make available to their employees. Inform clients of other services you or your firm can provide directly or through referrals to nonlegal experts, such as investment or insurance service providers.

Say “no” to cases that are not good for you. Many lawyers hate to say “no” for fear of losing clients. Learn to recognize the types of cases and clients that will stretch your resources and compound your stress. (To find out who those are, see Powers & McNalis, page 8.)

Practical Tips—Targeting

Create and maintain a complete and up-to-date mailing list of past, present, and potential clients and schedule regular contact with some of them each month.Treat these appointments as seriously as court dates. Face-to-face meetings are essential.

Develop a biography of important clients, potential clients, and referral sources and record for them significant information, relationships, important dates, interests, and activities. Identify a minimum of one new business contact per month with whom you will have lunch.

Consider writing witnesses after a trial to thank them for their cooperation, time, and service. They may remember you when they need a lawyer in the future. When a client needs a witness for a legal document such as a will, invite them to sign the document in your office. Then write the witnesses to thank them and to focus their attention on the importance of having a will of their own.

Practical Tips—Referral Sources

Treat everyone as a potential client or referral source. Emphasize to all clients that you make time for referrals. When asked “How’s business?,” never tell a client or potential client that you are “too busy,” which could be interpreted as being too busy to handle a new matter properly.
When a client needs a witness for a legal document, invite them to sign in your office

Entertain lawyers and others who are in a position to refer clients. Ask colleagues if you can provide assistance to them and apprise them of your full range of legal services. find out when your class reunion will be held and plan to attend. Give a stack of your business cards to your spouse to hand out to friends and acquaintances who mention a legal matter.

Write a “thank you” note when anyone refers business. Make an effort to reciprocate, and whenever you refer business, even if the potential client never contacts your referral, let that lawyer know by telephone and in writing that you referred the matter.

Practical Tips—Professional and Community Activities

Get out in public. Join organizations and attend luncheons and other events. Participate in activities that (a) allow you to meet the types of people you seek as clients; (b) promote a political or social interest you care about; or (c) enhance the quality of life in your community.

Let people know you are a lawyer and always carry business cards. Select a community activity with a long-range perspective. Seek leadership positions and become identified with the organization. Participate in bar associations. Become known among local attorneys and participate in activities that enhance the legal profession, including the delivery of pro bono services.

Sign up for a continuing legal education course in your field or a different one. Make an effort to meet other attendees, especially those who practice in different fields or other cities. Follow up and keep in touch with those attendees and attempt to refer business to them. They may later refer business to you.

Write an article to demonstrate your expertise in a particular field. Consider the audience you want to address (e.g., lawyers, a specific industry, the general public). Go the extra step. Whether the activity relates to a community organization or a bar activity, volunteer for projects and treat them as if they were client matters.

Practical Tips—Collaboration

Collaborate with another attorney in your firm on a joint marketing project, such as a seminar, luncheon, presentation, article, or other activity.

Help associates learn the art of rainmaking and the importance of networking by encouraging them to bring into the firm the smaller matters of friends and relatives. Actively support associate efforts in referring clients to the firm and pro bono programs. FA

Big Ideas

Big Idea 1: Do Something

Invest your time and talent now, but adopt a long-term perspective for rainmaking results. Develop relationships with potential clients and referral sources. Choose activities you care about. Develop goals and action plans. But don’t just stand there—get moving.

Big Idea 2: Keep Clients Happy

Communicate clearly and regularly with clients. Ask them how you are doing then listen. Discover their needs and concerns. Respond promptly. Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do today to improve the quality of service to my clients?” Keep your promises and exceed any expectations you create.

Big Idea 3: Create Opportunities for Getting New Clients

Treat everyone as a potential client or referral source. Let people know you are a lawyer and always carry business cards. Schedule regular contact with past, present, and potential clients each month. Tell everyone that you always make time for referrals. The more opportunities you create, the more likely that one of those contacts will actually call for an appointment.

Big Idea 4: Go the Extra Step

Treat your professional and community activities as if they were client matters. Target your efforts and have a reason for investing your time and talents where you do. Get out in public. Meet the types of people you are seeking as clients, promote a political or social interest you care about, or enhance the quality of life in your community. Write an article to demonstrate your expertise to the client-audience you want to reach. Participate in bar associations and become known among local attorneys as one whose efforts enhance the legal profession as a whole. In everything you do, lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Big Idea: 5 Smile

Life is short. Celebrate the moment, at least once in a while. In the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other—it doesn’t matter who it is—and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Then you’ll be refreshed enough to go back to Big Idea 1 and start all over again.

David C. Sarnacki practices family law and mediation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the Chair of the Michigan State Bar Family Law Section and a frequent commentator on trial advocacy, family law, mediation, and law practice management.


“Bright Ideas for Drumming Up Clients 24/7,” by David C. Sarnacki, 2006, Family Advocate, 29:2, p. 18. ©2009 by the American Bar Association. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any or
portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.


© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.