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IBA: Client Development Through Relationship-Building

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As a seasoned professional, you know the ins and outs of laws and regulations, the guidelines and the sound strategies that will benefit your clients. You have no trepidations offering advice. When it comes to your business, however that confidence often evaporates. For many lawyers the mere thought of client development causes unease. The word “sales” is foreign—and terrifying.
 

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Yet client development is not about sales. It’s all about relationship development. It doesn’t have to be a painful effort. Working with a business/executive coach has helped many lawyers discover how naturally client development can fit into their day, once they learned some basic techniques.

Using the Professional Practice Program, an experienced coach can help you understand and implement a series of tools and actions making a significant impact on gross revenue, from both existing clients and new ones. Five basic principles are the foundation of this approach: who, what, how, tracking and compelling reasons.

Who

To begin a client development program, you need to identify your target audience, beginning with existing clients. Then, the focus can expand to the circle of influencers and referrals. It’s also very helpful to identify the types of clients you would consider your “Dream” clients, the “Good” ones, “So-So” and “Nightmare” accounts or clients.

Don’t laugh. We all have a few clients that fall into that “Nightmare” category. By analyzing which clients bring the greatest return-on-investment of time, you can alert to spotting this same potential in new prospects. You may also learn to say “No, thank you” to a prospect that you instinctively predict will fall into that “Nightmare” category.

What

Next in the Client Development model is the step where you work on what you need to say to clients and prospects in order for you to grow your practice. New business is based on new relationships and renewed relationships with existing clients. You have to connect in a meaningful level. Memorizing a few facts about the client is not enough to project a sincere impression of wanting to help that client.

Being involved in the client/prospect’s growth and future is important to maintaining that relationship. It also helps create Top of Mind Awareness—another goal of what you want achieve. This means you want your name to be the one your contact thinks of immediately whenever someone says “Know of a good lawyer?” This is the foundation of your referral network.

How

In this step, the Professional Practice Program offers several very specific tools to help you achieve your client development goals. This is the step-by-step portion of the program that gets you actually doing the work. Samples of elevator speeches, letters invitations and tips for networking with clients and prospects are some of the very helpful, practical tools typically discussed.

Track

Without tracking the steps you take and analyzing the results, you may be just spinning your wheels. Giving yourself measurable goals is just one of the tactics you can employ to make sure you are actually contacting clients, building relationships and asking for referrals. The actions you take can be simple, but the important part is that you actually take an action and meet your goals. Tracking those actions keeps you accountable to your most important supervisor—you.

Compelling Reasons

You may already feel compelled to take an active role in client development. Or, you may just have a slight nagging thought at the back of your mind that maybe you had better get around to that one of these days. In either case, here is a statistic that will certainly compel you to work on your business development skills. On average:

A 60 percent increase in referrals + 200 percent increase in marketing contacts = 30 percent increase in gross revenue.

Think about that. Do the math. You’ll see client development can have some big pay-offs, ones that are simple and painless, to create. It’s all about the relationships, the contacts and your associates in the practice of law. So the next client meeting you have, take another look. Get to know the person, not just the facts. You’ll see a big return on your investment.•

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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