In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Elise Holtzman, a former practicing attorney, certified executive coach, and the founder of The Lawyer’s Edge, where she and her team help law firms grow thriving businesses by helping lawyers become better business developers and leaders. Elise is the creator of the Lawyers Making Rain program for law firms as well as The Lawyer’s Edge Ignite, a business development program for women lawyers that is launching in 2023. In addition to coaching, training, and consulting, Elise speaks frequently for legal organizations and writes articles on the subject of business development for publications such as Law.com and Law360. She is also the host of The Lawyer’s Edge podcast, where Guy Alvarez was a recent guest!
If business development is so important, why do so many lawyers shy away from it? What are some of the obstacles that get in attorneys’ way when it comes to business development?
The first one is, “I don’t know how to develop business.” If you think about it, we are self-selected into law school, and most lawyers will tell you that they didn’t go to law school because they wanted to become salespeople. They don’t really think about being salespeople or about how to develop clients. Law school doesn’t bother mentioning it. The clients are just there. The matters are there, the cases are there, and the clients exist.
Another reason is that they become uncomfortable with it. They think to themselves. Well, this is all about sales. I don’t want to be salesy. I don’t want to be tooting my own horn and telling everybody how great I am, and appearing that I’m trying to suck the money out of the pockets of people that I care about. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in our heads. What I would call head trash, or what coaches might call Gremlins. But we definitely listen to those gremlins and come up with twenty-seven reasons why we can’t do this.
The big reason is, “I’m too busy. You don’t understand. I’ve got work on my desk right? I don’t have time to be running around, handing people and going to cocktail parties, and going out to lunch with people. I’ve got work on my desk, and that’s work that I need to be doing.” What I would say to that is that everybody’s got the same 24/7. Business development is so important to your career, and I think it’s important to learn how to manage yourself, manage your own time and prioritize business development, because if other people can do it, you can do it as well.
What are the 3 Pillars of Business Development and how can knowing them be helpful?
The three pillars of business development help break things down for people. The first one is growing and nurturing relationships. Nurturing is about developing, holding on to, and taking care of the relationship that you already have, the people who are already in your network. Most of the work that will come in for lawyers is through relationships, whether it’s somebody that you know who can hire you directly, or somebody that you know who can make a referral to you. Not just with the ultimate clients you think could be a good fit for you, but for the people who can refer you and people who are part of your community, who are going to know who you are and want to be helpful to you.
The second pillar of business development is becoming a visible expert. You may be an expert, but if you’re invisible, your expertise isn’t serving you well. How do you become a visible expert? Do you get out there and tell everyone how great you are? The answer is No. Think of how you deliver value in the marketplace to other people. What can you share online that’s going to help people with issues that are coming up for them? What panels or seminars are you going to talk on? Are you going to give out articles? Are you going to read or podcast? Are you going to be able to give people information about the things that are bothering or keeping your clients, or prospective clients, up at night?
The third pillar of business development is all about leadership, growth, and behavior change. What I’m really talking about is going back to things like making time for business development and changing your job description. Instead of saying, “I’m a lawyer,” you’re saying I’m a lawyer and I’m also in the business of marketing my legal services. When it becomes part of your job description mentally, it’s much more likely that you’re going to do it. Another piece is learning how to delegate and build a team around you. I have seen many lawyers who start getting successful, but business development starts to falter because they’ve been so used to doing things themselves that they haven’t built a solid team around them. They don’t have people to whom to delegate, or they say, “I don’t trust anybody to delegate to. I have to do everything myself.” But growth as a leader, and being willing to change your behavior so that you can take care of the other two pillars, is critically important.
Look at your network. Look at your contact list. Look at who you’re connected with on Linkedin, and pick three or four people. Don’t treat it like a business development conversation, just treat it like a human conversation. Get used to the idea of having these conversations, and be more interested. Start with your existing network, and then you can grow from there. Start with the network you already have. For folks who are already engaged in development activities, but feel like they’re not having the success that they want to have, what I would say is that it makes sense to get a little more focused. I would consider also going into the three pillars of business development and picking one of them and focusing on understanding. You know who your target clients are, and who your referral sources are, so see how you can deliver value to them and raise your profile with those people. Do not try to be everything to everyone, but try to get really focused, and pick one area in which to go narrow and deep rather than trying to be all over the place. The focus is consistency and intentionality. This doesn’t happen overnight but will start moving the needle in the right direction.
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