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How to Jumpstart your Business Development in Three Easy Steps: Phase One

How to Jumpstart your Business Development in Three Easy Steps: Phase One

Business Development.  Why should you care?  Among the myriad reasons, having your own book of business helps you to:

·       Gain more control of your career

·       Attract and accept more premium-type work 

·       Partner with clients you really enjoy 

·       Reap greater financial rewards 

No matter where you are age and stagewise, you can learn (or reengage) strategies and tips and become better at business development.  Whether you’re motivated and committed to a deep dive and doubling down on your efforts – the start of a New Year and an uncertain economy can have that affect – or you just want to re-energize this part of your practice – there are countless options you could take that will make a marked difference.  In this article, we will start with three.

Developing and growing your business has never been more important.

There are currently:

·       1.3 million lawyers in the US. 

·       446,000 +/- law firms in the US and 

·       4000+ Legal Marketing Association (LMA) members –  an astounding 26,328% increase in four decades of professionals focused on advancing the practices of the firms and attorneys with whom they work. 

Not to mention the thousands of consultants in the legal space whose expertise runs the gamut from strategy to compensation, business development to marketing, public relations to websites, graphic design to social media.  This makes for a highly competitive legal market, in a shrinking pool if you consider client trend of reducing the number of firms they work with while also doing more work in-house. It’s no wonder lawyers are seeking every advantage and utilizing outside and in-house marketing professionals to give them an edge in growing and retaining their client relationships.

 The good news for those looking to jumpstart their efforts, the following are three, simple, time-tested Phase One tips you can do immediately.  Simply start, make a list, invest in your list. That’s it.  Phase One can be employed with relative ease and minimal time commitment and has the potential to give you a significant return on whatever investment you are willing to make.  And when you are ready to delve a little deeper, we can explore Phase Two. 


Don’t overthink/overdo it.  In his 1-Minute Wednesday No. 130 – LinkedIn post, Greg McKeown, organizational psychologist and author of two NYT bestsellers challenges us with “The 85% Rule.” Dispelling the myth that “maximum effort = maximum results”, McKeown posits that “less effort = more success.”  In other words, rather than striving for 100-110%, be okay with 85%.  This bears strong consideration for lawyers who are typically hyper-driven, time-starved perfectionists.  It gives you permission to take “imperfect” business development actions.  You don’t need a perfect 3 year plan.  A perfectly clear schedule.  A perfect list of contacts.  A perfectly known outcome.  What’s important?  STARTing and that’s good enough.

Remember the aphorism “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”  When it starts affecting your progress on your business development goals – give yourself permission to dial it back and take that imperfect action.  Where to start?


Know your audience. Your contacts and network within your sphere of influence who are able to direct or refer business to you and/or introduce you to those who can.  

 Create a comprehensive but manageable list considering the:

·       Past: Who you knew.  Those with whom you’ve had a prior, solid working relationship, and/or who have referred you business.  If you haven’t been in contact – or received work or a referral in the 12-18 months they are your past and a priority.  Your “p-squared.”

·       Present: Who you know. Those you are regularly engaged with in some capacity.

·       Future: Those you need to know who you have determined could be helpful.

Practical/tactical: Depending on your resources – processes, financial and/or CRM system – you may have access to reports.  Capturing historical data from the last 3-5 years can help surface those you’ve lost touch with.  If creating a perfect list becomes an impediment to action, remember our 85% from above.  A less exacting method will often get you to the same place – or close enough – and Outlook, LinkedIn, Constant Contact, or other mailing lists can be helpful in identifying who you need to reconnect with.

INVEST. Next, using Excel, (CRM or other tool) prioritize your list in a meaningful way – again lots of ways to do this –pick what works for you.  For each of these contacts, those who can best influence your success, your goal is to invest in the relationship, regularly and in ways that are meaningful to your contact.  While I guide client through a similar process, an excellent resource for those who want a deep dive (and full on system) is The Snowball System: How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans. Chapter Two of this book by business development guru Mo Bunnell covers this topic in depth.

Regularly investing in and staying in touch with contacts keeps you top of mind and can be the proximate source of new business. It cannot be overemphasized.  One recent example of keeping in touch and “success in action” at play:

An overly committed and time-starved partner had a deposition scheduled in New York – out and back – at year-end.  In my experience in working with him, he always leverages travel for multiple business purposes.  This time was to be the exception.  “I really need to meet with CLIENT  –  we haven’t gotten any new work from her recently – and there is simply NO way I can do anything more this trip.”  We brainstormed some ideas and landed on him making a simple “touch point” call along the lines of:

“Hey, wanted to let you know, I’m in New York next week – it’s super quick – in and out so unfortunately, we won’t be able to connect this time.  I was thinking about you and wanted to catch up.  I’m expecting to be back again in March/April and was hoping we could do something then – what’s your Spring schedule looking like? 

From this one outreach calls, he got a return call within days, referring a new matter for a completely new service line (anticipated to be in the mid six-figures) and they tee’d up a follow-up opportunity for the Spring.  On our debrief call, the attorney said it was “…highly doubtful he would have gotten the call – if I hadn’t made the call.”

If you’ve read this far, I’d like to encourage you to take the next step.  Invest in yourself by investing in your business development efforts and contacts.  If you have trouble getting started or get stuck after you do, reach out to your internal resources or contact me.  There’s a vast network of professionals I can introduce you to who can meet you where you are and help you go even further.

Reprinted with permission from the 1/18/23 of the Fulton Country Daily Report © 2023 ALM Global Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877.256.2472 or [email protected].

Susan Slifer

, MBA advises law and professional service firms on strategy, with an emphasis on business development, marketing and communications initiatives to help drive revenues. She consults for a worldwide client roster, and previously served as CMO for two global law firms where she was a catalyst for business growth through client teams, client satisfaction and relationship management initiatives in addition to attorneys skills training programs.