Tips for Building a Book of Business
By Robert K. Dixon – Wilson Turner Kosmo, LLP, San Diego, California | Submitted on behalf of Emerging Leaders
Since building a book of business is vital to thrive in our highly competitive legal industry, we took a moment to meet with rainmakers at NAMWOLF firms. Here, these elite attorneys offer tips for cultivating a book of business.
Rainmaking Isn’t Developing Business It’s Creating Relationships
Everyone’s familiar with this scenario: Your back in your office for the first time after a two-day conference, armed with a pile of business cards, you proceed to send out “nice to meet you” emails to each person you met at the conference. Now what? How can you re-engage with someone and continue to build a relationship, even though you only talked to him or her for five minutes? As Vickie Turner of Wilson Turner Kosmo, LLP explained, during “your encounter—no matter how brief—identify at least one common personal or business interest that you two share. But you cannot manufacture common interests…it’s more important to be authentic, as people can see through phony attempts to build rapport… [and] when you follow-up with them ask them how they are doing with a certain business interest they identified.” Developing a business relationship, like any relationship, will not happen overnight, so it is important to regularly follow-up in order to develop a personal relationship.
Do Something Every Day No Matter How Small
To borrow a phrase from Dr. Seuss: a business development activity is a business development activity no matter how small. As Richard Amador of Sanchez & Amador, LLP explained attorneys will never build a book of business “by pounding out billable hours and then heading home every day, and any competent lawyer can develop business if you do something every day.” For example, attorneys “can send an email, make a call, meet [someone] for lunch, attend a seminar or reception, or do committee work.” The key is “to find out what works best for your personality and comfort level” and do something, no matter how small, each day to accomplish your ultimate goal.
Build Your Brand
Similar to companies, attorneys must develop and cultivate their professional brands. “Too often attorneys solely focus on getting direct contacts with in-house attorneys and they fail to use that same level of focus to develop their reputations within their legal community,” said Claudette Wilson of Wilson Turner Kosmo, LLP. While developing your personal brand “starts with doing great work, it by no means ends there. Attorneys must seek out speaking engagement opportunities, publish articles, participate in interviews, and build and refine their online presence to truly build great reputations.”
Pay It Forward
Successful attorneys typically do not abide by a pure self-interest business philosophy. Rather they try to “figure out ways in which [they] can help advance someone else’s goals and agendas in a meaningful way without expecting an immediate return,” according to Gregory Wesley of Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP. For example, when Greg’s firm identified a star associate they gave her “meaningful real opportunities to grow and to be successful and empowered her and she never forgot that.” While this associate ultimately went in-house, how Greg’s firm “treated her early on in her career made a big difference … and at each level that she ascended to [in-house] she basically came up with ways to bring us along and find opportunities for us… and [thus] we created [an] institutional client relationship all because of the way we treated her when she was an associate.”
Engage In Desktop Marketing
As Jerry W. Blackwell of Blackwell Burke P.A. explained, “This is not ‘online marketing,’ but rather, the high quality work product you intentionally create sitting at your desk every day. On every matter, deliberately, and regularly attempt to undertake some achievement that goes beyond minimum expectations… Regularly setting your sights high and reaching for them will garner the attention over time of those you would like most to represent (and they will tell their friends too).”
Get to Know Everybody
Some attorneys only want to meet the general counsel, but as Deborah E. Lewis of White & Wiggins explained, getting to know “anybody and everybody is important [because] you never know where the next piece of business is coming from. Don’t only reach out to lawyers at corporations, but get to know lawyers at law firms, [especially] law firms in cities other than your own [because] they will have clients who have issues in your jurisdiction and the client [might not] know who to go too.”
Every Lawsuit Is an Opportunity to Get More Business
A lawsuit presents a perfect opportunity for an attorney to develop business, because “it presents you with an opportunity to work closely with opposing counsel as well as third parties, which can lead to new business,” said Robin Wofford of Wilson Turner Kosmo, LLP. “Some of [Robin’s] current clients came from referrals from opposing counsel and interactions with third parties.” In fact, Robin met one of her longtime clients during a third party deposition because “the client was so impressed with [her] litigation skills and [her] ability to build rapport, that when he was sued [she] was the first call he made.”
Robert K. Dixon is an associate with Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP in California. His practice focuses on defending various companies in products liability lawsuits, personal injury, consumer class actions, and other complex litigation.