Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Associates: Answer These 3 Questions To Begin Your BD Plan

Sometimes the hardest part about starting a task is, well, starting the task. And if I've learned anything from nearly 30 years in the business development business, it's that BD plans are often that project: the one that lawyers know they need to do, the one they plan to do, the one that they just can't get off the ground. That can be even more true for associates, who are often juggling multiple assignments from multiple partners working for multiple clients on multiple legal issues.

The good news is that your plan doesn't have to be written in stone or particularly formal or even follow a standard format. All you really need to do is ask yourself these three questions, then write down the answers:
  1. What are you doing now that you would like to continue? Take a look at the work you've done – and the clients you've done it for – over the past six or twelve months. What did you particularly like doing? What do you want to do more of? Maybe you worked on an FCRA matter that you enjoyed. Or found that helping a client resolve a particularly difficult IP rights issue was something you were good at. Perhaps you were able to work for some specific client types, like family-owned businesses, or restaurant franchisees, or companies in the sports industry, that you would like to continue representing. The idea is to identify the work you like, and develop a plan for doing more of it. Not because you'll never do anything else (you might even come up with an entirely different list six months from now), but because without a plan, your chances of doing what you want to do are reduced.
  2. What are your marketing strengths? No one would disagree with the statement that some lawyers are better writers than they are networkers. Or that some can talk to anyone about anything. So why shouldn't you focus your marketing efforts on your strengths, on those things that you like, that you do well, and that you want to do more of? Of course that doesn't mean that you should completely ignore a valuable writing opportunity, for example, because articles and blog posts aren't your favorite way to demonstrate your expertise. But it does mean that, all things being equal, you should play to your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses.
  3. What new things would you like to try? Without taking anything away from the two previous questions, it's critical that you think about what you're not doing, too: legal issues you'd like to know more about, marketing skills you'd like to acquire or hone, client types you'd like to represent. Your BD plan is the perfect tool for setting goals and aspirations, starting with new things you'd like to try. Want to get to know the craft brewing industry? Set a goal of joining a local trade association and attending four meetings in the next six months. Need to improve your public speaking? Join a Toastmasters chapter and make yourself attend meetings. After all, it's your future.

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