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June 10, 2016 business development

Business Development Tips for Partners and Senior Counsel

By Oran F. Whiting


This article provides tips and general strategies on positioning partner-level lawyers to successfully and continually build and maintain a book of business. It is also intended to stimulate partners' and similarly experienced and seasoned practitioners' thought process and focus on the enduring requirement to market and to develop business.

Congratulations, You Made Partner! Now What?

Now that you have reached this exalted position in your firm, there is no time to rest on your laurels. Marketing and client development are more important now than at any other point in your career. Unless you are a "service partner," you are now responsible for keeping yourself busy. Depending on the size and structure of your firm, you may also be responsible for the livelihood of associates and possibly other partners.

The reality in this business environment is that good work and successful results do not necessarily ensure client loyalty or repeat business. People change positions; entities are bought, sold, and go out of business. One always has to be on the hunt for more. Unless your partners share their business with you, or a close contact is general counsel or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you will have to market.

Fortunately, you can use your partnership position and your established reputation as a solid and experienced practitioner as the foundation for your pitch. Partnership, even if in name only, garners respect in business development.

Approach Current Clients

Current clients are a built-in and preexisting source of business. Opening a new file with a current client is far easier than originating a new client. Confirm your clients' satisfaction with your preexisting cases. Getting to know their needs better will help you determine whether you can generate additional files.

Question existing clients about the type of information they would like to know in order for you to help their business. Be proactive about showing them how you can help support and grow their business. Continuously assess your existing clients' preferences and understand their businesses and industries. Learning more about your client and their strategic objectives will help you tailor the delivery of legal services that will assist your client in achieving their goals.

Networking and Contacts

As a partner, you will most likely have a business development budget. Use it. Connect and network with, visit, and entertain contacts. Everyone is important. Every person you meet is a potential client. Do not take anyone for granted. Review your contacts list and reconnect with those with whom you have neither seen nor spoken to recently. Cultivate referral sources, as many lawyers get business from them.

You may need only look to the next office or down the hall for your best contacts. Your fellow partners are excellent sources of business. Working together with your fellow partners will benefit them, you, and your firm. Cross-selling your partners and associates will endear you to your colleagues internally and reflect positively on you externally. Be a valuable resource and a team player.

Conversely, excluding your partners or approaching their client contacts without their knowledge or assistance will alienate them and cast a negative light on you and the firm. Remember, general counsel do speak with each other, and friends do not let friends retain predatory counsel. If you are willing to betray your partner, what are you willing to do to your client?

Social Media Is Not Social: It's Business

Make use of networking and personal websites, which provide continuous exposure, allowing potential clients to research you and your firm at any time. Use social media, which allows contacts to recommend you to others. Trumpet your experience and accomplishments while ensuring compliance with law firm, ethical, and Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission guidelines.

Be proactive in generating and directing traffic to your personal website and social media accounts. Install an analytical program on your website to detail which search terms got people to your site and how long they stayed there. Also use these programs to determine popular search terms, and put the terms that relate to your practice on your website.

Make a Time Commitment

Though you may be swamped with work, you must plan for leaner times. Business development should be approached as a daily responsibility or obligation. An appropriate amount of time to commit to marketing is 300 to 550 hours per year for senior lawyers and firm leaders. Much of this is devoted to client relationships.

You should consistently be spending a portion of your time marketing. Many attempts to generate business will be unsuccessful. However, if you continuously put effort into it, you will be successful in developing new and maintaining existing clients.


Oran F. Whiting is executive editor for Litigation News.

Keywords: business development, partners, senior counsel, advice, tips


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