50 Business Development Tips

Conduct end of matter meetings.

End of matter meetings are similar to client interviews (check out our client interview blog series). However, the approach and goals are entirely different. An end of matter meeting allows you to wrap up loose ends with your client, evaluate the process, and determine your next steps. It also provides you with prime one-on-one time during which your client can be candid about the process. What lingering questions does your client have? With what were they pleased or frustrated? What can you as the lawyer do better the next time around?

This conversation also gives you an opportunity to learn the client’s projected course for the next month, six months, year, etc. Where do you fit in to their future? Now that this matter has come to a close, learn their most pressing needs.

Your clients will be impressed that you took the time to meet and talk with them on your own time. This step is crucial in the long journey to build a trusting relationship, and will be well worth every minute.

Your partners are your best prospects. Understand their ideal client and business issues.

One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make when trying to win business is attempting to promote and discuss only their own practice. Instead, we suggest taking a more holistic approach. In addition to sharing your own strengths and focus, you should also share those of your partners’. You will find that this mindset carries numerous benefits. First and foremost, it allows for powerful cross-selling. Second, it enables you to develop a closer and more team-oriented relationship with colleagues.

To be effective this approach requires some work. You need to meet with your partners to learn about their goals, strengths and target clients. If your partners know you are out advocating on their behalf, they will likely be doing the same for you. At the end of the day, it’s all about collaboration.

Lunch is not for everyone.

Don’t misinterpret this tip. Hear me out. I am a big advocate of eating lunch and believe everyone should do it! In the context of business development, however, lunch is not for everyone. If you’re trying to schedule lunch with a client or prospective client, it is quite possible that they’ll turn you down. Many view a lunch appointment as a colossal time sink, because it can interrupt the flow of a work day,  pull you away from the office for 2+ hours (if travel is involved), and often takes place in a distracting and loud setting, making quality conversation difficult.

We recommend offering alternative meeting options, such as an early morning or late afternoon coffee. Or perhaps you do stick with lunch, but offer to bring it in to the client’s place of business. You can pull up a chair at their conference table for a more intimate, comfortable and convenient chat.

Based on feedback we have received during client interviews with GCs and executives, they think that alternative meeting times and locations are great. They end up being “occupied” for a shorter period of time and it allows them to continue their busy day. It also sends the message that you are cognizant and respectful of their time. A bonus perk for you: it gives you an opportunity to meet and interact with their colleagues, earning you multiple points of contact and greater rapport.

Leave every client/prospect meeting with clear next steps.

Similar to any other meeting, you want to walk away from a client meeting – be it the first or meeting number 10 – with a game plan. There should be clearly stated next steps and action items, each of which should align with your ultimate business development goals with that contact.

Have they asked questions to which you owe them answers? Is there contact information you need to provide them with? Will they be sending you a request for proposal next week? Are you planning a lunch the following month? Speak these next steps out loud and document them well in your meeting notes, so you can refer back to them at any point in the future.

If you don’t ask… you’ll never receive. Make the close.

After all your efforts to connect and build relationships with a potential client, don’t forget the most important step: asking for their business! As I’ve detailed in my article “May I Have the Pleasure of Working With You?” you can sell yourself short by not directly asking a prospective client for his or her business. For many lawyers, directly asking for someone’s business feels taboo and uncomfortable. Consider this: if you don’t ask for an individual’s business, you don’t give them a chance to say yes… or no!

It might be a conversation that feels unnatural when first put into “practice,” but as with any new effort, practice makes perfect. Below are some examples of how to easily incorporate a business ask into your normal conversation:

1) I have enjoyed getting to know you through our work on the board over the last few years. I am interested in learning more about your business and ways in which we may be able to help. Could we meet briefly after the next board meeting?

2.) I believe that the attorneys in our real estate practice group have experience that is well aligned with your company’s legal needs. Perhaps I could introduce you to several of my partners to discuss ways in which they could assist?

3.) While I’m uncomfortable broaching this topic, and would never want anything to jeopardize our friendship, I want to discuss the opportunity for our firm to represent you in connection with some of the acquisitions you are contemplating. We’ve known one another for several years and I have never felt comfortable asking, but I practice in the area in which you are using legal counsel and I think I can be helpful. Our relationship is one built on a foundation of trust and understanding, both qualities that would transfer well into a business capacity.

4) If conflicts ever arise with your current counsel, would you consider giving our firm an opportunity?

5) How can our firm be added to your preferred provider list? The likely answer is that they don’t have a list, in which case you ask: How do you decide on what firms to retain? What criteria do you look at? How do you choose your attorneys?

6) Working with you and your group on this transaction has been great. Are you contemplating projects where we could be of further assistance?