July Reading

Let’s close July with some articles and posts you should not miss.

Every lawyer knows something about the pressures that surround the practice of law. And because business development is meaningless unless it moves you closer to a future you actually want to live, here are two articles and posts you should not miss about being a lawyer.

  • The Lawyer, the Addict This article about one lawyer who, like so many others, fell to drug and alcohol addiction, has been making the rounds. If you haven’t read it yet, stop and do so now. Your practice and life, or that of a friend or colleague, could depend on it.
  • Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Lawyers. A brief post by Cliff Tuttle, on the right reason to be a lawyer.

On the business development side…

  • Still using LinkedIn like a virtual Rolodex? That’s a mistake. Check this article for a better approach: 10 Reasons to Share Articles to LinkedIn:
  • Read Consistency and Sustainability in Selling for a refresher on some fundamentals of business development. Don’t be thrown by the “sales” language: recast this brief post into the language of business development plus client service and retention, and you’ll get the benefit. My favorite tip? “ABP” or “Always Be meeting People” – I revised the acronym’s expansion. 

What did you read this month that made you sit up and take notice? I’d love to hear!


How can you revive a neglected professional relationship?

Despite the best of intentions, it’s easy to let a relationship slide. You get busy, you lose track of your contact schedule, you run out of ideas for keeping in touch… And next thing you know, your relationship has atrophied.

But, like muscle, an atrophied relationship can be rebuilt. By focusing time and attention on your relationship and maintaining consistent effort, you’ll often be able to revive a good relationship more easily than you built it in the first place.

But you might feel awkward trying to re-energize a stagnant relationship, especially if you aren’t sure that the relationship can be reinvigorated. If you find yourself about to write off a relationship, you need to be sure that the relationship can’t be resurrected. It’s easy to allow discomfort to lead you into turning a neglected but viable relationship into a dead one, and lawyers far too often write off relationships before they’re truly finished. But how do you know? Or, as someone often inquires when I’m presenting a business development workshop, Is it ever too late to rebuild professional relationships that have languished?

The short answer is that it depends on the relationship. The deeper the relationship, the more likely it can be resurrected.  If, however, you meet once and fail to follow up, or if you follow up only once or twice, the relationship will lack the firm footing necessary to allow it to flourish following a period of silence.  That said, it never hurts to try to rebuild a relationship, particularly if your sole reason for reconnecting is to re-establish communication and not to seek a favor

So, what can you do to rebuild a connection that has faded? The simplest, and often the most effective, approach is to do precisely what you would do with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time: pick up the phone and say, “I realized it’s been a while since we’ve spoken, and you’ve been on my mind.  Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes? How are things with you?  What’s new?”  If several months have passed since you were in touch with this contact, you may even begin the conversation by re-introducing yourself.  (This is where my recommendation to maintain a database of contacts proves especially helpful: you don’t have to try to remember when and where you met.)  You may experience a few awkward moments as your contact gets back into the connection, but most people will pick up relatively quickly.

If, like many lawyers, you’d rather do nine hours of painstaking document review without a coffee break than pick up with phone, you do have other options. For example, you might consider the following:

  • Send an email to reconnect. You might suggest talking by telephone and either arrange a time or let your contact know you’ll be calling.  While you’ll still have to pick up the phone, you’ve created an expectation that you will call, and chances are good that you’ll avoid an awkward beginning.  If you suggest that you’ll call, though, you absolutely must do so – or run the risk of looking like a flake.
  • Send an article or other resource that will interest your contact. The resource may address a legal or non-legal issue, but it must be tied in some way to a conversation you’ve had with the contact.  Attach a note that says, “I remember talking with you about [topic of resource] at [wherever you had the conversation] and thought of you when I saw this [resource].  Hope it’s useful!”  By doing so, you not only reconnect by offering assistance, but you do so in a way that will bring your conversation back to your contact’s mind and refresh the relationship.
  • Issue an invitation. You might invite your contact to an open house or to attend a CLE or other seminar of interest with you.  If you deliver an invitation by mail or email, be sure to attach a note saying that you look forward to reconnecting. This personal touch will indicate to your contact that your interest is genuine.
  • Seek out news about your contact. This may be a more challenging approach if you’re seeking to reconnect than to maintain a relationship, but it’s worth a quick search to see whether your contact has been in the news recently.  You may find news of a professional event (an honor awarded, a trial won, a leadership position attained) or a personal event (a new marriage, a new baby, a recreational or community activity).  Such news offers an ideal reason to get in touch again.

Take a few minutes this week to review your list of contacts. With whom should you reconnect?  Choose three to five people and reach out to them.  Building and maintaining your network is always a valuable activity, and keeping relationships alive will often pay off (often in unexpected ways) over time.

What to do when you don’t get the matter

One of my clients (let’s call her Renée) had a major disappointment recently. She had been courting a potential client (let’s call it ABC Corp.) for quite some time, and all the signs indicated that she would be tapped to handle a major piece of litigation. And then, instead of returning the engagement letter, ABC Corp. called Renée to share the news that another lawyer had landed the matter instead.

Certainly a painful moment.

To her credit, Renée took the opportunity to ask what she could have done differently. ABC Corp. was pleasant and gave some answers that were plausible but didn’t quite ring true to Renée, and then the call was over.

Now what? What should you do next when you’ve lost a potential client?

  1. Find out why, if possible. Since the answers Renée received didn’t ring true to her, we stepped back to consider what the real reasons might be. Money is always a likely suspect, so we discussed how the competitor lawyer may have structured the winning fee proposal and whether/how that should affect what Renée does. We also discussed other possibilities like a long-term relationship between the GC, a perception that the other lawyer has more experience, and a few other factors.
  2. Evaluate your own performance. Would you, with the benefit of hindsight, change anything about the way you approached the potential client and matter? Would you change the make-up of your pitch team? Were there any awkward moments you would seek to avoid next time? Did you spot a way to improve your marketing materials?
  3. Determine your next steps with the would-have-been client. How far has this ship sailed? In other words, do you expect a future opportunity to arise with this client? (For Renée, there’s always the possibility of more litigation; if the matter was the sale of a business, what potential might exist with the successor?) Based on how the process proceeded and completed, should you continue to court the would-be client, should you consider asking for a referral, or should you let things lie for the time being?

    Whatever your answer, unless you decide to take no further action (which in the majority of cases is not the best decision), sketch out your next steps and put dates or time-frames on your calendar.

  4. If you’re taking the loss hard, remember this quote from Pat Summit: “Left foot, right foot, breathe.” In other words, keep going. Don’t let one loss, even a painful one, knock out your drive to build your practice.

Rejection of any kind is unpleasant, so make sure you learn as much as you can from losing a matter to help you improve your business development skills.

Happy Independence Day!

July marks Canada Day as well as Independence Day in the United States and numerous other countries.

This time of year always prompts me to ask two questions:

First, what do freedom and independence mean to me personally, professionally, politically, and culturally?

Second, what do I need to do to increase my freedom and independence, and what do I need to do to support others in doing the same?

There are many answers to these questions, but let’s limit the conversation to the professional context. This is a great time to ask where you feel free or constrained in your practice, in the way you work, in your collegial relationships, and even in the way you approach business development. If you don’t like your answer, perhaps you should choose to declare your own independence this July. Questions to consider might include:

  • Do you like your practice? If not, how might you shift your focus? 
  • Do you like your clients? If not, where could you find clients you’d enjoy? 
  • Do you like your colleagues—or do you wish you had colleagues? Is it time to build better relationships or seek out new ones? 
  • Does your business development plan fit you? If not, come up with one that does. A brilliantly conceived plan that you don’t want to execute wont help you reach your goals. 
  • Does your schedule give you the freedom you want and need as a professional, a family member, as a community member, as a professional? If not, can you find ways to use your time differently, perhaps incorporating the approach espoused by the book Total Leadership (which I reviewed here) to identify activities that serve multiple domains of your life at once? 
  • Does your life reflect your values? If not, exercise the freedom to change.

Once you’ve asked the questions and determined your answers, make a clear plan for any necessary follow-up activity. Your professional freedom deserves determined and consistent action.

Mid-2017 Law firm trends

Here’s an interesting article sharing 10 trends identified by CMOs from mid-sized regional firms.

If you’re working in such a firm, ask yourself whether you are observing these or other trends and how you might respond to them.

If you’re working at a different kind of firm, ask those questions as well as how you might compete against the “mid-sized regional firms” on the basis of these trends.

The most important of these 10 trends, I believe, is: 

  1. Relationships Are Still the Key to Success: In a flat market, the CMO’s agree that moving lawyers away from awareness and credibility activities and toward relationship-oriented activities is paramount.

Does that mean you’re off the hook for writing, speaking, and the like? Of course not. However, if you need to develop business in the short-term (as opposed to having less time pressure), you will see much better results from speaking with potential clients and your network of allies (those who will refer business to you and introduce you to potential clients, as well as opening other doors for you).

How do the trends identified in this article affect you and your business development activity?

Does social media lead to business?

Does social media activity really lead to new business? This question comes up quite frequently, along with its cousin, Why am I not seeing ANY results from my social media activity? Social media too often becomes a time-consuming, illusory activity that seems to promise results are just around the bend.

But some lawyers have cracked the code. I recently ran across an article titled The Social Law Firm Index 2016: Is Your Firm a Social Law Firm? which has some good tips based on a social media survey of the AmLaw 100. (If your firm is nowhere near the 100, don’t worry: the tips apply regardless of the size or type of firm.)

The whole article is worth reading, but let’s focus on the first “best practice”:

By remaining true to their primary business objectives and core brand messaging, social law firms are most effective at extending their reach and engaging with their target audience.
This sentence identifies four core aspects of effective social media use, each of which is implicated in any kind of successful business development activity:

  • Primary business objectives: You must have a business development strategy in place and a plan to execute it. Like any other activity, social media must fit within that strategy.

  • Core brand messaging: Having a clear brand-based message is important in any business development activity, but it’s critical in crowded social media communities. Otherwise, even if your “thought leadership” and educational efforts (two of the other identified best practices) hit their mark, your audience likely won’t remember what firm offered such helpful information.

  • Extending their reach: Effective social media activity is a way to appear in front of new people on a regular basis. Knowing whom you want to reach and what kind of content will catch the right attention is the heart of your business development strategy, and social media is one of the vehicles to use to make that happen. 
  • Engaging with their target audience: Social media is social, an opportunity to connect and engage with other users. It is not effective when used as a megaphone. Regardless of the particular platform that you’re using, your plan needs to include a way to identify individuals strategically and to connect with them in a way that moves an online relationship into offline conversation.

There’s a lot more to this article (much of it more granular that the report’s initial point), so please do read it if social media use is any part of your marketing plan. If you aren’t getting the results you want, you will likely be able to self-diagnose what’s missing.

When you plan to “try”

When confronted with a new, daunting challenge, many of us have a tendency to say we’ll try.

In the business development context, that might show up as, “Oh, I hate networking, but I know I need to meet new people, so I’m going to try attending the monthly entrepreneur’s meetup.” Or “I know I need to be easier to find online, so I’m going to try to publish a few articles this year.” Or “It’s been a couple years since I looked at my business development plan, so I’m going to do that and try to get it updated this month.” Or… Well, you get the picture.

Here’s the truth about saying, “I’ll try”:


Sometimes “I’ll try” does mean “I plan to make a legitimate and strategic effort to accomplish this goal.” If that’s what you mean, leave out “try” and just say you plan to do it. Of course there’s a risk of failure—there’s always a risk of failure—but leaving out the fuzzy word “try” may help to minimize that risk.

I urge an honest and pragmatic approach to business development. So if you aren’t fully committed to undertaking an action (and by fully committed, I mean intending to take planned, strategic, and consistent action), don’t kid yourself. You don’t have to do everything—in fact, you can’t do everything—so acknowledge what you can and can’t do (or will and won’t do) and leave “trying” on the sidelines.

Make the most of your summer (or vacation season)

Vacation season (whether for the summer or winter holidays) brings fun and challenges. Do it right and you can enjoy and refresh yourself while maintaining your progress toward your goals. Fail to approach it thoughtfully, and you probably won’t like the outcome.

This week I’m sharing several greatest hits from the past with tips to help you make the most of your summer, whether you’re about to be in the full swing of it or whether it’s still six months away in your part of the world. (And, of course, these tips apply for any kind of vacation as well as no vacation at all.) Click on the links below to read the full articles.

  1. Increase your efficiency by cutting the time you spend in the office:  This post shares three tips about how you can shift your approach to work so you can get more done and get out the door.
  2. The Reset Button:  Two tips to help you feel less pressured, which in turn will increase your efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Addressing Burnout:  Your Productivity Depends on It:  How can disconnecting from your work improve your productivity?
  4. Get Out of the Office:  Your best thoughts about work probably won’t happen at work.
  5. The Productive Value of Vacation:  How short bursts of recreation can refresh and reinvigorate you.
  6. How Your Holidays Can Help Your Grow Your Practice“Your future is created by what you do today.” This article covers how to continue forward motion while enjoying your vacation season.
  7. Mix Work and Play for Fun & ProfitThis article covers the neglected art of gracefully shifting a social contact into a business conversation—without being that tone-deaf boor who’s always selling him- or herself.

Why market on price?

There’s no doubt that price is a factor in most buying decisions. However, price is not the only factor, and it doesn’t have to be the most important factor. Consider this:

If you want to command a higher fee, deliver extraordinary quality, convenience, service, and value. How to do that is a long conversation. How do your clients judge quality? What does convenience look like for your clients? How can you create additional value for your clients? And finally, how can you provide client service in a way that produces quality, convenience, and value? Answering those questions typically requires some digging, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

Here’s the deeper thought, though…

If you market (primarily or exclusively) on price, doesn’t that in effect concede that you don’t deliver extraordinary quality, convenience, service, or value?

Do you need a CRM?

Relationship development is a key part of any business development initiative. That’s why we put so much effort into meeting new people, getting to know them, and following up with them over time. But how do you gather and track the relevant must-know information about your contacts?

Enter the CRM: the Client (or Customer) Relationship Management system.

(One prefatory note for the rest of this conversation: if you’re working in a larger firm, you may have access to the firm’s CRM and consider that sufficient for your purposes. Before you reach that conclusion, find out how easily you will be able to extract your contacts’ information should you leave the firm. If it’s at all difficult, given the reality of today’s professional world, don’t rely exclusively on the firm’s system.)

A CRM is most often software (local or in the cloud) that organizes contacts and information about them, but it need not be highly technology-driven. Some people successfully use spreadsheets, Outlook, Evernote, or even a Word file. CRM software offers functional advantages.

Here’s a list of features and attributes your CRM system should include:

  • The system must be accessible from wherever you are.
  • The system must be secure.
  • The system must be a centralized and easy-to-update repository for contact data, including address, email, and telephone as well as business and personal interests.
  • The data within the system must be sortable (so you can identify people who are located in a city before you visit, for example).
  • The system should include a tickler function to prompt you to follow up with clients and contacts on the schedule you define.
  • The system should track your communications so you can see when you last spoke with a contact and what you discussed.
  • The system should allow for easy import and export of your data.
  • Optionally, the system may save a library of resources you can use for follow-up contacts.
  • Optionally, the system may include some automation to streamline your efforts.

Two of my favorite CRMs for small firms or for individual use are Contactually and Less Annoying CRM.

Why might you not want to use a CRM? If you won’t keep it updated, a CRM may do you more harm than good. Otherwise, a CRM is a good investment to facilitate building your network.