Meeting the Inner Challenge of Business Development (Part 1 of 6)

Marketplace Expectations (Part 1)

Hardly a day goes by that you’re not aware of it on some level. You read about it in professional journals and newsletters. You detect its influence in conversations with clients and prospective clients. And though you may not be sure of its exact impact on you or your firm, you probably have a growing sense of the challenge it presents.

The “it” is the powerful fusion of commerce and technology that is dramatically changing the legal services marketplace.  Driven by experience-transforming (and thus culture-transforming) companies such as Google, Amazon and E-bay, consumers – including those of legal services – are increasingly expecting immediate, information-rich, customized, participatory, flexible, and price-sensitive service. Prospective and existing clients will continuously be seeking a higher quality experience from the first exploratory interaction with you all the way through to conclusion of the matter for which you’ve been retained and beyond.

Just as the most successful companies continuously focus on understanding and improving their customer’s experience, the most successful attorneys will increasingly focus on understanding and improving their client’s experience. It’s easy to say that “doing business as usual” will no longer suffice with regard to client acquisition and retention. But changing how you actually do business in response to this inexorable trend is the real challenge.

Like most of your colleagues, you probably have at least a few ideas about what you should be doing. Strategies for client development abound in the proliferation of books and programs on rainmaking. And much of it is, after all, common sense. So what’s the single most important success factor in this new environment? It’s your attitude. 

External Strategies and Actions

Before looking at the internal attitudes necessary to be a strong business developer, here’s a summary of ten key external strategies and skills. These are the things you need to do, the actions you need to take. But be forewarned: though these are easily grasped in theory, their application is far more difficult. (Hence the subsequent focus on attitude.)

Recognize the hidden value of your best resources

  • Invest your time and energy in building strong relationships with your best clients by exceeding their expectations of you and your firm.
  • Solicit and take action based on high-quality client feedback.

Prepare, inquire, listen

  • Thoroughly prepare for every scheduled interaction with an existing client, referral source, or prospect with the purpose of deepening your understanding of their situation.
  • Ask questions to clarify the matter about which a prospective client is willing to fund a legal solution.
  • Talk a lot less and listen a lot more in all business development and client meetings.

Choose distinction (or risk extinction)

  • Develop expertise in a well-defined niche about which you’re enthusiastic. Specify in your mind your ideal client profile and your ideal matter using as many authentic differentiators as possible. The clearer you are, the more targeted and effective your marketing communication – as well as the communication of others on your behalf – will be. You don’t have to limit yourself to these clients only, but having a target is necessary to focus the rest of your marketing effort.
  • Be fully comfortable expressing, compellingly and concisely, the typical benefits of what you do for the clearly-defined clientele of that niche.
  • Systematically build your visibility and credibility through strategically targeted writing and speaking.

Become intentional about relationship building

  • Cultivate a network of high-caliber referral sources.
  • Diligently track and review all of your contacts, your meetings, and their results.

About the Author

Bill Jawitz, Law Firm Coach and Consultant

Bill Jawitz has been coaching lawyers to become more profitable and enjoy a higher quality of life since 2002.

He can be reached at or at 203.806.1300.

I maintain a deep library of hundreds of best-of-breed checklists, templates, guides, and white papers on every aspect of managing a legal practice and law firm, from lawyer marketing plans, to hiring process checklists, to alternative fee engagement letters.

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