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Law Practice Magazine

The Marketing Issue

Perspectives: Marketing Tips for Young – and Not So Young – Lawyers

Stephen E Embry


  • Business development is a long game, so doing what’s good for you in the short term may not get you where you want to go.
Perspectives: Marketing Tips for Young – and Not So Young – Lawyers

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As a practicing lawyer, I have been fortunate to be able to attract and retain a fair amount of business over the years. I often get asked, especially by younger lawyers, how to get work from clients. Since this is our marketing issue, I thought I might share 10 tips I have learned over the years.

  1. Invest time and money in getting business. You can’t get business without a little of both. I have seen lawyers afraid to make an investment unless they thought a return was certain (it almost never is). Think like an entrepreneur.
  2. Go see your actual and potential clients. There is no substitute for real hands-on time with clients. That’s how you learn of opportunities.
  3. Get to know your clients and potential clients. (See number two above.) Try to uncover their concerns and the pressures upon them. If you do, you can come up with better solutions and ideas that meet those needs. And that can get you work.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fail. Yes, I generated a lot of business over my career. But I got rejected more times than I succeeded. So don’t be deterred by doors slamming in your face. And when you are rejected, be gracious about it. Who knows, the way you handle rejection may open doors and help you get hired for something else.
  5. Develop your niche and brand. Who are you professionally? What work are you after? Measure your business development investment against your brand and expertise. And remember the advice of Theodore Levitt, a Harvard economist. Levitt pioneered the concept that businesses should stop defining themselves by what they produce. Instead, they need to reorient themselves toward customer needs. He challenged businesses to ask themselves, what business are they in? I thought of myself as a product liability litigator for much of my career. But my business horizons broadened when I began defining myself as a lawyer who could handle and manage large, complex litigation. Appropriately defining the business enables you to, among other things, apply what you have learned in one area to problems in other areas.
  6. Look for solutions that advance the client’s real needs and concerns. A product manufacturer may care about a product liability case because of adverse publicity and its effect on sales and stock price. The individual case may in fact be a secondary concern. Knowing a client’s concerns will lead you to a more impactful approach and a broader strategy that helps your client. As one of my partners put it: “The problem is the problem.” Diagnose the problem your client has before you start spouting off solutions.=
  7. Be likable and interested in your clients personally. My firm and I once participated in a competition with other firms for a significant case. We got the work because, while all the firms were more or less equally qualified, our lawyers got along the best with the client. As the client rep put it, “I knew I was going to have to spend a lot of time with lawyers on this case. I figured I might as well spend it with someone I enjoyed being with.”
  8. Be interesting. While it’s true we can’t all be charismatic, most of us can make ourselves more interesting. Read books. Go to movies and plays. Stay current. If nothing else, it will give you something to talk about with your client and make your time together more enjoyable.
  9. Do good work. It goes without saying that you must be a good lawyer in your chosen field. Good work, timely done, is not just a platitude; it’s table stakes.
  10. Be authentic. Be yourself. If you don’t know something, say so. If the matter is beyond your experience, say so. But stay open to thinking about your client’s problems and concerns even if a particular matter may not necessarily be in your wheelhouse.

Above all else, keep your clients’ concerns and needs foremost. Business development is a long game, so doing what’s good for you in the short term may not get you where you want to go.

Good luck.