Internal Marketing Can Lead to Long-Term External SuccessSeptember 26, 2013
New client development is the lifeblood of law firms and the lawyers who comprise them. Although many firms have perennial clients that remain active through even the worst of times with a steady flow of new files, new business development permits law firms to grow, evolve and survive for the long term. A static and unwavering book of business is nonetheless important, but can also lead to complacency, paralysis and boredom.
One of the primary challenges for many young lawyers is how to find, develop and maintain new clients. In other words, many young lawyers get caught up in the world of external marketing.
The skills to tackle the harrowing world of external marketing can often be developed in a much more forgiving and attainable environment: within the friendly confines of an associate’s law firm. Focusing on internal marketing, while developing the skills to market new clients outside of the firm, can be an important first step in professional development. Moreover, maintaining a steady workflow inside the firm can ensure the longevity that a young lawyer needs to reach milestones in a career that make obtaining and developing new clients more realistic.
An associate’s marketing of himself or herself within the firm is just as important as marketing to the outside world.
PROVIDING STRONG WORK PRODUCT
As lawyers, we are only as good as the service that we provide. Often, however, the evaluation of work product falls into the hands of lay juries, busy judges and other seemingly uncertain evaluators. Regardless, maintaining a consistently strong level of work product will ensure the highest possibility of success on the merits of the issues at hand, even if the ultimate result remains uncertain. It is important to return to the assigning attorney and, in fact, the client, an effort that an associate is willing to stand behind and otherwise be proud of.
Typos, unreasonable arguments, a lack of due diligence in research, poor sentence structuring, a lack of application of law or fact, or other sloppy workmanship not only ruins the specific project, but also takes a significant bite out of an associate’s reputation. Good lawyers become known within their firms and even externally to clients.
It is important to ensure that every piece of work product that leaves an associate’s office is respectable, if not perfect. The same level of work product and service that is provided by associates internally can easily translate to new and existing clients. Learning to do good work now will inevitably assist in the future with new client development.
No partner and, in the future, no client, desires a practitioner who cannot even control the quality of his or her own work product. Good work fosters trust and tilts even the most uncertain matters in a favorable direction. Moreover, providing a high level of work product is a career-building activity with widespread, positive ramifications. There is no better sales pitch to a prospective business opportunity than a track record of being absolutely great at what you do.
GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND
Going above and beyond has become an everyday cliché and technical business catchphrase that is often overused and misunderstood. It does not necessarily mean, in the context of a young lawyer at least, setting up a partner’s shoe-shining appointment or sending biweekly fruit baskets to favorite or prospective clients. Instead, it involves anticipating needs and resolving loose ends ahead of time. There is no better feeling than being asked, “Well, Mr. Associate, what are we going to do with issue X as a follow-up to your last project?” when you can respond, “Actually, partner/client, I already found a solution to X, which means we should do Y, and let’s not forget about tying everything up with Z.”
Anticipating and satisfying needs is vital to success in the eyes of superiors and clients alike. Moreover, with regard to developing new clients, a little research into a potential target, coupled with some additional thought as to their anticipated needs, turns an empty sales pitch into a productive meeting. People take comfort in a member of the service industry who is cognizant of their needs, both those that are expressed and those that are likely to arise in the future. Sure, the occasional fruit basket will not decrease the odds of likeability, but good service, above and beyond the baseline expectation, will ensure continued gratitude and loyalty, both inside and outside the firm.
STAYING CONNECTED AND RESPONSIVE
When big issues come up, an associate’s job is to be attentive, responsive and ready with answers, regardless of when they arise. Moreover, new and existing clients will be forever indebted if a lawyer bails them out in an emergency bind.
Periodic checks to voicemail and email while out of the office will not irreversibly tilt the work-life scales in an unfavorable direction. Unanswered emails, unreturned voicemails and ignored requests often lead to an undesirable result: missed opportunities. You never know when an external lead will come calling with an emergency, and the first step toward securing a potential suitor is being available when the telephone rings. Furthermore, when an assignment comes in, or a new client is available or willing to talk, quick turnaround times keep you in the front of their minds. Connectivity, and the speed of responsiveness, will positively serve a young lawyer inside and outside the firm.
WORKING FOR INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY
Responsibility often grows with trust. While a partner or client may review a newer lawyer with complete oversight, trusted practitioners often have freer reign over their cases and decision-making. New clients, and partners working with associates for the first time, will often start with a small assignment. Nonetheless, it is important, both within firms and externally for marketing purposes, to get a foot in the door and to obtain the first assignment.
The goal should always be to do better and more for each subsequent assignment. Expanding responsibilities and, in turn, developing relationships with clients and partners, is a vital step in the development of a career and book of business. There is no greater professional accomplishment than gaining the trust of your peers and clients.
Overall, these traits help foster the ultimate goal for any practitioner: indispensability. If they work inside the firm to provide a strong work product, go above and beyond in their tasks, stay connected and responsive to needs, and always work ahead for increased responsibility, young lawyers can become irreplaceable individuals to both partners and clients alike. Showcasing these traits to new or potential clients can create longstanding and lucrative business connections. Young lawyers may not always become rainmakers in the first few years of practice, but providing exceptional service to those inside the firm can easily translate externally into a respectable book of business. Clients are generally on the lookout for great lawyers, not empty sales pitches.
This article was shortened to accommodate space limitations. To read the full version, please visit Source below.
Source: The Legal Intelligencer