When it comes to business development, are you a grinder, binder or finder?
Chances are if you’re in a solo or small practice, you’re all three.
Grinders crank out the law work. Binders cement lasting bonds with clients. Finders go out and reel in new business.
Each step is essential to effective marketing.
This three-legged approach to rainmaking was a hot topic at a meeting of the Legal Marketing Association – Southern California Chapter. Among the talking points: top rainmakers at big firms should plan on devoting about 700 hours each year exclusively to bringing in new business.
“It has to be as important as what you’re billing,” attorney Michael Flynn told Law.com.
Holy salesmanship! Carving out the equivalent of 90 full workdays a year just for wooing, wining and dining might be feasible at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, where Flynn is a mergers and acquisitions ace. And it might work for the other biglaw attendees at the SoCal confab.
But it’s a safe bet that a solo in Southport or a two-lawyer firm in Fayetteville does not have the luxury of blocking out a quarter of the annual calendar just to make rain. They’re too busy advising clients, preparing documents and appearing in court.
It’s a different story in big firms. The nation’s largest 200 law firms employed about 22 percent more business development personnel in 2011 than in 2007, according to a survey by the Zeughauser Group.
So what can the majority of North Carolina lawyers who practice solo and in small firms do to keep up?
- Market ceaselessly. Everything you do – from the way you answer the phone to the clothes you wear to the courthouse – makes a statement about who you are. Every email, text message and letter is a marketing opportunity. You are being sized up and graded at all times. Make sure you pass the test.
- Go local. We like to do business with our neighbors. We derive value from community. Focus on serving those closest to you first, then spread your influence outwards.
- Play to your strengths. You might not be able to afford rich mahogany paneling like the biglaw firm down the block. But you can offer something even better: accessibility, personality and empathy.
- Be authentic. Be real, and be really good at it. You will stand out.
Above all, practice with integrity. Stick to your principles and keep your promises. There will always be a market for that.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.