It was the lawyers who effectively divorced the meaning of the words “develop business” from the word “sell.”
You’ve heard the banter: “We advise and counsel, we don’t sell.” It’s true. Lawyers have demonized and banished the “S” word from their vernacular so effectively that at most you’ll hear a vague acknowledgement of a far-off day when one might have to develop business. But not sell. Until they talk to a recruiter.
The practice of law can be done increasingly efficiently and effectively and with less support staff and fewer attorneys. In the slowly recovering post-crash economy, these new efficiencies, combined with the need for partners to shore up their devalued books of business, take up any slack in extra hours that would have been doled out to new-hire associates in days past. This means that the chance of advancing to partner without a book of business has become increasingly slim for most.
Change has therefore come. Now more than ever, whether you stay at the firm or go, even a modest book of business is the best hedge against no work, or having to put out a shingle without the benefit of your firm’s brand and platform. Whether you have to do that or want to do that, if you have your own clients, you won’t be starting from zero.
Outside the Big Firm, senior associates and attorneys with books of business get placed before those without. You have to sell. The “S” word is a bad word no longer.
So let’s talk about selling. It is not just a skill, it’s an art. For many it comes naturally, and for most it can be learned – but you have to want it. For starters, selling in the legal world is largely relationship-driven, helped by visibility among peers and potential clients that drive your practice area. Relationships develop into new business, and new business drives new relationships. The rest, that’s up to you. You’re the driver.
A Business Plan (or, Business Development Plan, if you want to kick it old-school) will help. It’s not just the thing you put together as a snapshot of your book when you are ready to leave the firm; it’s a valuable tool to use while you are still an associate at the firm. Why? Because selling is relationship driven, helped by visibility among peers and potential clients that drive your practice area. Relationships develop into new business, and new business drives new relationships. (It’s worth repeating.) Therefore, selling is a numbers game. The more you sell the more business you get. The earlier you start, the more you sell, and the more business you get.
How do you plan and keep track of all this selling? A Business Plan.
Your historical success in selling has to be documented, should you move to another firm. How do you keep track of all this success? A Business Plan.
You have decided it’s time get going on a Business Plan. How do you even start one?
Here’s where I make my own sales pitch: The Partners Group specializes in placing lateral attorneys, from individual associates and partners, to practice groups and mergers. Whether you have a well-established book of business or are just starting out with business development activity, if you’re thinking about making a move, we can help you with that Business Plan.
And your search of course.