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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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