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March 01, 2022 The Marketing Issue

Perspectives: Developing Your Own Book of Business

Heidi A. Barcus

The key to finding happiness in private practice is developing your own book of business. I was lucky, I joined a firm that had no expectation that I bring business with me, and my salary was not based on origination. I was under no pressure to develop business. At the time this arrangement seemed like freedom. There were no rainmaking expectations. All I had to do was make sure the firm’s existing clients were satisfied.

For the first five years of practice, I was content. As I developed as a lawyer, I began to realize that the lawyers in my firm who had the most freedom were the originators. They were able to pick and choose the work they wanted to focus on, and they had more control over their schedules. I also learned that if I ever wanted to move to another firm, I had a better chance if I could bring clients with me. It became apparent that for myself, I needed to be a rainmaker. Fortunately, I practiced with a number of people who were masters at keeping current clients and developing new clients. I watched what they did and learned as much as I could. The two most significant originators were men, and some of the ways they attracted clients worked for me. However, a lot of their time was spent on the golf course cultivating traditional networking skills. The last time I played golf, I managed to loft a golf ball into the golf cart parked behind the tee. There was no way I was ever going to be comfortable on the golf course or impress a prospective client with my drive. I was going to have to develop business using my own talents, not the talents of the successful male rainmakers.

I learned as much as I could from the lawyers in my firm. But I needed more information about how to market myself. I turned to the Law Practice Division. The Division is made up of people who have developed successful practices and who are willing to share how they did it. These professionals recommended that I spend some time each day intentionally looking for my own clients. Yearly, I wrote out a business plan and set goals. Slowly over time, my business grew. I started writing articles, accepting speaking invitations, targeting board seats in organizations that needed my expertise and making the right connections for my practice. My law firm supported me during this journey. Eventually, I joined the ranks of the originators at my firm. After 25 years, I am still with the same firm. I never used my origination to make a move to another firm. But I did find freedom in knowing I could leave if I ever wanted to do so. Every lawyer should begin thinking about how to develop their own book of business. The Law Practice Division is the best place to learn how to become an originator. We offer the resources and we can connect you with people who know how to market.

This issue of Law Practice is devoted to marketing for lawyers. It is full of tips and ideas for how to get started. As you read this issue, make a list of ways you can expand the business you have.

Make a plan for 2022. At the end of the year, evaluate where you are and revise the plan for 2023. Before you know it, 25 years will have gone by, and you will be mentoring a new lawyer in your firm as they start building a book of business.

Heidi A. Barcus


Heidi A. Barcus is a partner with London Amburn, P.C. in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a past president of the Knoxville Bar Association and serves as the 2021–22 chair of the Law Practice Division. [email protected]

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