Weekly Rainmaker Activity

This week’s task: Set up Google Alerts for your top 5 clients.

Why is this a good activity?  Google Alerts deliver news results about whatever topic you select direct to your mailbox on the schedule you select.  They function as a free clipping service.  In this instance, receiving alerts about your clients will let you know what’s happening with their business or industry, what others are saying about them, etc., and put you in an opprtunity to be proactive in providing advice or offering assistance.

How to undertake this activity?   Go to http://www.google.com/alerts and complete the form.  It’s simple of self-explanatory.  Use your clients’ names as the search terms.  If you choose to expand this week’s task, you might also add other terms relevant to your clients — perhaps their industries, their products or service, or their competitors.  Two tips to avoid an avalanche of results:

  1. Be selective in the terms you use.  For example, if you represent Boeing, you would not want to use “Boeing” as a search term because you’d get millions of alerts in a few days’ time.  Instead, you might use “+Boeing +airplane +manufacturer” or ” +Boeing +air +defense +contractor.”
  2. Set up email filters so alerts go to a specific email folder.  You’ll need to make checking that folder a part of your routine, but that’s far preferable to missing a critical email because your in-box is overly full with alerts.

How long will it take?  Just a few minutes to set up the searches, and probably 5-10 minutes daily to review the results and/or edit your searches.

Weekly Rainmaker Activity

This week’s task:  Review your biographical sketch and update it if appropriate.

Why is this a good activity?  Your bio sketch is likely to be your first introduction for potential clients who are referred to you, for potential clients who find you on the Internet or otherwise, for other lawyers, etc.   Your sketch may also be returned based on a Google or other keyword search online.  It’s important that your sketch be accurate, persuasive, and up-to-date.

How to undertake this activity?   Review your sketch and ask these questions:

  • Is your important accomplishments and memberships listed?
  • Is everything accurate and up-to-date?
  • Have you minimized or (better yet) eliminated legal jargon, so potential clients and referral sources will understand exactly what you do?
  • Is your your photo attractive and does it accurately represent you?  (Flattering shots are fine, but if someone would be unlikely to recognize you based on your photo, get a new one.  Typically, you’ll want a new photo every 3-5 years.)
  • Does your sketch list any community activities or other leadership involvement?
  • Does your sketch include a simple, searchable way of identifying your practice area?
  • Does your sketch include the keywords that someone trying to find a lawyer like you might enter in a Google search?

Look at your sketch online.  Is the most important information “above the fold,” meaning that it shows on the screen without requiring you to scroll down to it?  If not, reorganize.

How long will it take?  If it’s been a few years since you’ve revised your sketch, this could take as long as 1.5 to 2 hours.  If it’s reasonably up-to-date, 30 minutes will probably suffice nicely.

What will it do for me?  Completing this task will ensure that you don’t lose out on opportunities because of inaccurate or missing information.  You’ll know that you’ve put your best foot forward online.

Weekly Rainmaker Activity

One of the keys to being a successful rainmaker is making a habit of consistent client development activity.  I recommend that lawyer doing something designed to increase business every single day, whether it’s writing a 2-minute email, hosting an hour-long lunch, or attending an all-day industry meeting.

I’m launching a new blog feature this week: the Weekly Rainmaker Activity.  Each Monday, I’ll offer a business development task.  Those who choose to accept that challenge will make the time to engage in the activity of the week at least once.  If you’re so moved, please post a comment (anonymous is fine, of course) to let me and the other readers know what you’ve done this week.  Healthy competition of this sort can benefit everyone.

So, this week’s task: talk with a current client about the economy’s effect on his/her business.  (It should go without saying, but for the sake of clarity: this is an “off the meter” conversation.)

Why is this a good activity?  For better or worse, that’s the chief topic for many people right now — is your business suffering?  If so, how are you handling it?  If not, what’s setting you apart from those who are suffering?  How do you see the next weeks and months playing out?  What do you need to make it through this rough period?  Since everyone is thinking about it, we may as well talk about it, especially if there’s a chance that you could offer some sort of assistance.  Even if you can’t, your client (and you) will likely benefit from the conversation.

How to undertake this activity?  Choose a client.  (If you’re a junior lawyer without much client contact, choose an internal client — one of the partners or more senior lawyers who gives you assignments.)  If you’re talking with him or her anyway, just fold the inquiry into your conversation, perhaps piggybacking on recent news or on a legal discussion about the business.  Or place a call to your client “just to touch base” and raise the topic that way.

How long will it take?  That’s entirely up to you and your client.  I’d say 5-10 minutes is long enough to allow for a meaningful discussion without going into too much depth.

What will it do for me?  It will deepen your relationship without your client.  It offers the client the opportunity to be heard about something that’s likely at the top of his or her mind anyway, and it could offer a chance for you to give useful advice.

5 Tactics to Implement NOW

I know you’ve been reading the negative legal news over the past few months.  Some of you have been directly affected, and some fear that you might be hit next.  Today’s post presents the five steps that you must take now.  These apply whether you’re looking for a new job (voluntarily or otherwise), trying to make yourself more valuable so your practice will flourish or so you’ll be considered indispensable at your firm, just starting out, a seasoned practitioner – you get the idea.  These five steps are also critical in business development, so pay special attention if rainmaking is on your goal list for 2009.

1.  Get crystal clear about whom you seek to serve and how to reach those clients, and then deliver more and better than they could possibly expect.  If you’re a fairly new associate at a large firm (within the first two or so years), you’re serving the more senior lawyers at your firm.  It’s important, of course, to narrow down on your niche, but your focus needs to be on the lawyers who will give you assignments.  If you’re more senior or working in a smaller firm, you may serve more senior lawyers as well as “real” clients of a particular description.  When you’ve identified the people you serve, look for ways to impress them.  Maybe it’s offering extra resources, maybe it’s proactively raising a potential problem before it turns into an actual problem, or maybe it’s offering a fresh perspective on a long-standing challenge.

2.   Set SMART goals for yourself and your practice.  SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.  Setting goals in this way ensures that you can track your success as you proceed.  Instead of saying that you want your client communications to be more timely, you might decide to set a standard that you return all telephone calls within 3 hours of receipt.  Instead of setting a goal to bring in new billable work this year, you might decide to set a goal of bringing in $25,000 of new work in the next year.  (Whether that’s an achievable goal depends, of course, on your own circumstances.)

3.  If what you’re doing isn’t working, change.  You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity, attributed (probably wrongly) to Einstein: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Maybe that definition doesn’t always apply, but it’s accurate for operating in our current environment.

So, are you insane?  Some old approaches are still valid, but others are now a waste of time.  If you don’t know which is which, make it your business to find out now.

4.  Find valuable shortcuts.  Time remains precious, and it’s wise to eliminate as many time-wasting activities as you possibly can.  If you want to learn something new, find a mentor, coach, or training program to show you how to avoid the common traps and how to become proficient more quickly.

5.  Drop the excuses and the blame.  I must speak plainly on this one: circumstances will never be perfect, and if you wait until they’re better you’ll actually be moving backward.  If you’re unhappy in your work but you stay on because it’ll be hard to find a new position in this economy, you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any favors.  If you choose not to invest in necessary training or resources because times are tight, you’re actually costing yourself.  While you’re waiting for just the right plan or just the right time or just the right opportunity, others are moving forward with plans and opportunities that are good enough.  They’re moving forward and gaining momentum, and you’re standing still.  As we all learned in high school physics, objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest.  That holds true for people, too.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re stressed and worried, you aren’t alone.  You may find it tempting to hunker down and try not to open yourself to further trouble, but that’s exactly the wrong thing to do now.  Everything may begin to look brighter with the new year and new administration, or it could get worse.  Don’t wait for an external solution.  Implement these five steps now.