October 23, 2012

Law Practice Magazine

March 2006

Volume 32 Number 2 | PAGE: 44 | BY: R. Michael Wells


We all want more clients and new business-and that's good, since study after study underscores the importance of both. Lawyers who are consistently able to attract new clients and new business will have a better book of business, a higher quality of life, and more financial success and stability. A winning personality helps, it's true. But all smart lawyers who know how to build a solid case or a negotiating strategy can apply those same building principles to growing their practices. Here's a 12-point strategy to help you get started.

  1. Identify two areas of your practice that are profitable and that you could expand. Devise a specific plan about how to grow those areas. Establish objective measurements to chart your progress, and set a timeline. You hit what you aim at.
  2. Identify five CEOS or other decision makers with whom you have had some professional contact. Write out the list, look up their telephone numbers, and start calling. Schedule meetings with them to discuss what you and your firm do. (You might be surprised how many meetings you can set up in 30 minutes.) If they do not know all that you and your firm do, how will they know to hire you?

  3. Identify five gatekeepers-people in a position to recommend lawyers-and ethically encourage them to remember your firm. If you're a business attorney, for example, the gatekeepers may be financial planners, or CPAs, or accountants. Call on them-and not just once. Persistence pays off. Keep in front of them on a regular basis.

  4. Cross-sell your firm's other services, especially services you provide personally. Ask about other legal needs the client has that you don't currently handle. Proactively inquire about legal products that most everyone needs, such as estate and elder law planning. Existing clients are by far the greatest source of new business and referrals to new clients, and yet they are consistently overlooked.

  5. Be known as a lawyer who does excellent and timely work. That includes consistently returning phone calls in a quick and timely manner-it may be the single most important thing you can do to grow your practice.

  6. Do seminars on topics of law in your area of expertise. But also develop talks on other, non-law topics about which you have knowledge and that are of interest to others. If people (1) like and trust you, (2) have (or come to have) an identifiable legal need in your area of expertise, and (3) have your business card, you have gone a long way toward getting the quality business and clients you want. Even if someone has no immediate need for your services, you're establishing yourself as a knowledgeable source in the area. Why would you give a seminar if you didn't know something about the topic?

  7. Set a goal of increasing your personal origination by 10 percent or $25,000 a year, whichever is greater. You have to hold yourself accountable. And track it every month.

  8. Encourage clients to recommend you to others. Tell them properly and ethically how much you would appreciate it. Tell your clients it is the highest form of flattery when they recommend you, and you would be honored by their confidence and endorsement.

  9. Identify three service organizations or projects in which to become involved in the next year. Serve because you have a passion, and always deliver on your commitment. Attend meetings regularly, and volunteer to do the hard jobs.

  10. Set an appointment with yourself once a month, maybe on a weekend, and review your marketing goals and objectives. If you do not make an appointment and clear away all the many other things you are working on, the odds of you actually reviewing your plan are very slim. Literally put the appointment on your calendar-and do not give the appointment up.

  11. Devote one partners' meeting a month to discussing your progress. If you keep this important topic in front of you and your partners, you keep everyone accountable.

  12. Finally, be aware of progress you cannot see. If you do the right things for the right reasons and for a long enough period of time, the prospective client's need for your expertise and your availability are bound to meet.

R. Michael Wells is a principal in the law firm Wells Jenkins Lucas & Jenkins in Winston-Salem, NC.