Thursday, December 17, 2015

3 (More) Ways to Jumpstart Your BD in 2016

Want to do better in 2016? Give your business development a boost. Here are three ways:
1. Talk To Your Colleagues. 
Although you pass each other in the hallway 12 times a day, how often do you stop and talk business development with your fellow lawyers? Why not set aside one lunch per month to get together with one or two of them and talk business development? It doesn't have to be formal, you don't need to bring your BD plan as reference, you don't have to justify what you did or didn't do last month. You just have to talk about clients and opportunities and ways you might be able to get new work. 
2. Drop Your Clients a Line. 
You know it's true: most of the correspondence you send clients is about work – status updates, compliance questions, filing deadlines, and the like. But it doesn't have to always be that way. What if you made an effort, again once a month, to find one article or blog post that one of your top clients will find interesting? Perhaps it's an article about their alma mater, or a ground-breaking development in their industry, or even news from their home town that you can forward along with a "this made me think of you" cover note.  They'll appreciate it.
3. Make an introduction. 
No matter how long you've been practicing, you probably know several people who would benefit from knowing each other. Perhaps your accountant and your biggest client both like to sky dive. Or maybe two clients in complementary industries went to the same college but have never met. Whatever the connection, what if you made the effort to figure out who would gain from an introduction and then put them together? Wouldn't your contacts appreciate it if you made three or four introductions over the next 12 months? 
Make 2016 a great year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

3 Questions As You Rewrite Your BD Plan for 2016

The end of the year is always a good time to take a hard look at your business development efforts of the last 12 months: what worked and what didn't, where you want to spend your time and effort next year, etc. If you're going through that exercise – and you should be – here are three questions you should ask yourself:
  1. What do I like to do? No, I'm not talking about horseshoes or hang-gliding (though there are no doubt many lawyers who have turned these and similar interests into BD tactics). Instead, you need to figure out what you enjoy, what you're most comfortable doing, and what you don't like, so that you can shape your BD efforts accordingly. Put another way: if you're more at home in front of the keyboard than in front of a crowd, you probably should put public speaking lower on your list than starting a blog. Because you're not going to actively engage in BD activities you don't like to do.
  2. What makes me special? Obviously, you wouldn't be a successful lawyer if you didn't bring something special to the table. Something tangible for your clients. Something that makes you stand out, that makes them continue to give you work. Once you figure out what that is – you might even consider asking one or two of them – you can start figuring out a way to exploit that strength, to determine who will be most interested, to articulate that which sets you apart from the competition.
  3. What is the market telling me? Staying on top of trends in the market – what regulators are doing in your key clients' industries, what's going on in China, how the presidential election is likely to change the way your clients do business – is essential at all times. But as you're trying to figure out where your biggest opportunities will lie in the coming year, you should be paying closer attention. A good place to start is BTI's recent Mad Clientist blog post reporting on a survey of more than 300 General Counsel on the areas in which they plan to spend their legal services dollars in 2016.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

7 Ways To Make In-House Lawyers Happy

Earlier this week, I attended a Legal Marketing Association Ohio conference, "Perfect Your Pitch," featuring six in-house lawyers:
  • James D. Campbell, Senior Counsel – Litigation and Claims, Big Lots!
  • Ria Farrell Schalnat, General Counsel and Director of Intellectual Property, Vora Ventures
  • Mark G. Stall, General Counsel, Escort Inc. and Cobra Electronics Corporation
  • Peter Jurs, Vice President and Legal Counsel, Fifth Third Bank
  • Robert Horner, Vice President, Corporate Governance and Secretary, Nationwide
  • Fred Stein, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Redbox
The group shared useful insight into what we should be doing to make them happier and get more work. Some observations (in no particular order):
  1. In-house lawyers want meaningful relationships with outside counsel. For the in-house people who sat on the panel, it's all about the relationship. They won't give work to people they don't know, people they just met, people who haven't spent the time and effort to get to know them and their company. One panelist said that two years is the minimum amount of time necessary for a relationship to develop into work for the outside lawyer, and that ten years is probably more realistic. That might be a bit extreme, but the point is that they want to work with people they know and like, so the better your relationship, the more opportunities you will see.
  2. They like free stuff. All of the in-house lawyers were in agreement that they appreciated lawyers who give them free stuff: forms and checklists, ideas and suggestions, introductions to potential customers, etc. Doing so demonstrates that you care, that you're willing to invest in the relationship, that you're the kind of lawyer they'll want to have on their team. It gives you a chance to "audition" for more work and, most importantly, it opens the door to reciprocity: additional work, referrals, and the like. It was clear that most of the in-house lawyers who spoke have to operate on limited budgets with fewer people than they need, so becoming a "knowledge source" is a great way to stand out as you help your clients get smarter and do their jobs better.
  3. They require transparency. All of the panelists talked about the importance of transparency at one point or another. A pet peeve was outside counsel who blew through a budget without telling anyone, instead sending a bill for twice the amount. That isn't to say that firms must stick to expected costs for unpredictable work (think litigation), but rather that they want their lawyers to keep them in the loop when fees start to exceed the budget. They recognized that it's not an easy phone call to make, but were clear that it absolutely had to be made for the relationship to continue and grow.
  4. In-house counsel is always interviewing other lawyers. Like all of you, in-house lawyers attend seminars, conferences, social events, and the like. They talk regularly to other providers, and they meet people they like and want to work with. That's a given. For you, it means always taking that extra step, making your clients happy, asking them what they want and then delivering it. But it also means that you're only as good as your last piece of work, and that your client relationships are always at risk.
  5. They're struggling to please their own clients. Several times during the day each of the panelists referenced his or her own clients: the CEOs, executives, Boards, etc., to whom they all report. Those clients are just as demanding as yours and, as one speaker pointed out, the risks are much greater for the in-house lawyer who doesn't make her clients happy. Another said (and said again) that he wants his outside lawyers to ask him how those clients are doing every time they're on the phone together. The bottom line? Knowing who your clients report to and how they're being evaluated can make or break a relationship.
  6. They're tired of Alternative Fee Arrangements. "Alternative fees are a race to the bottom where associates are getting squeezed." That's a direct quote from one of the panelists, who said that getting work "on time, on spec, and on budget" was better than an alternative billing arrangement. It's not that they're wedded to the billable hour, but rather that they have learned that AFAs do not always mean lower costs – or greater efficiency – so they are understandably skeptical when outside lawyers pitch alternative fees. We should instead be creative in developing billing agreements that are win-win and that allow both sides to benefit from technology and other delivery improvements.
  7. They don't like staleness. From the panelists' perspective, outside counsel should always be improving the delivery of legal services, the relationship, the quality of work. One in-house lawyer called it CQI: Continuous Quality Improvement, and said that he liked lawyers who kept the relationship dynamic.

Clicky Web Analytics