Lawyers stumble over business development

Attorneys are notorious for staying behind the desk, in front of a computer, avoiding business development. Most are introverts, so they think they won’t relate well and prefer not to appear “salesy” so they simply put information out in passive ways. This inactive behavior doesn’t make the phone ring.

“We need to decide what our priorities are,” says Cordell Parvin. When attorneys state it’s most enjoyable to serve their clients, then they need to make sure they keep developing the pipeline.

Parvin insists new attorneys must first develop themselves. This includes their communication skills, their interpersonal (relationship and trust-building) as well as their intrapersonal (managing self) skills.


If  they develop themselves an hour per day, they will develop their skill sets as needed. How does this compare to your skill development?

Later in their career attorneys should shift from their personal development to client development, Parvin states. In theory, development time, personal or client, could average 20-30 hours monthly. Compare this to skills development for an athlete, a musician or someone in the trades. An hour per day gets them focused, motivated and disciplined in the areas they are developing.

If the phone isn’t ringing, and the attorney isn’t networking, public speaking, meeting face-to-face with business associates or developing their marketing message, they aren’t developing. Sure billable hours need to be met. This isn’t an excuse for not developing business. We can blog, tweet, write articles – all passive, very slow-building marketing strategies, although useful. Pair this with meeting people, speaking to groups, networking and creating mutually beneficial relationships – active, quicker-building marketing strategies.

Have you been stumbling over business development? Regardless of your length of practice, maybe it’s time to consider your priorities and then create a plan to address them.

A few personal skills to develop

  1. Your message – Decide how to state your value, focus your message, use a strategy of influence and end strongly (without coming across aggressive).
  2. Prioritizing. Learn what to say YES to, and then the art of saying NO, when it is possible.
  3. Decision-making. It isn’t about being right. It’s about coming to a conclusion and then acting from it. First we must decide.

A few business development skills to develop

  1. Your marketing strategy – Whether you intend to network, to public speak or to prospect – this is a must for business developers.
  2. Decide on and communicate your target focus. This doesn’t mean you can’t work with other clients. Just means you understand the power of becoming the expert in a target market, becoming top of mind for them and learning all about that particular industry/demographic.
  3. Ask for the business. Yes, relationship is important. So is being able to help out those who you discover you really like. What’s worth – not asking them for your business or seeing them fall into major problems you could have helped them avoid?
  4. Learn to walk away after you asked for the business. Begging, pushing and complaining are very unattractive. Desperate actions don’t help us get business.

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