What you need to know about business development to build your own book

I have recently been working with several outstanding senior associates who are taking stock of their career futures. While their educational pedigrees and legal experience are outstanding, nowadays, that is simply not enough. Every one of my clients expects a book of business. For a BigLaw partner in New York, the book typically needs to be about $2 million, and for partner opportunities at smaller or boutique firms, they are looking north of $500 thousand. For many law firm associates, marketing is a skill that’s required to make partner but one that they have limited opportunities to pursue.

I know that you may be asking, if I am required to have eight billable hours a day to achieve my 2,000 hours, how can I also do business development, perform pro bono work, take training – and shower, eat and sleep? While I do not like to be blunt, the simple fact of the matter is that you are responsible for your continuing success. As your legal recruiter, it will become extraordinarily difficult for me to place you as a 7+ year associate without a book. The old saying goes that G-d helps those who help themselves…

Here are some very simple yet highly effective strategies you can use. If you have questions about any of them, or want to brainstorm with me as to how to implement them, please give me a call. I’d be delighted to work with you!

1. Develop Your Personal Marketing Plan This sounds more difficult than it is. Give yourself however long it would take you to shoot a round of golf, or go out to dinner and a movie, or whatever takes about 4-5 hours of time, and go somewhere other than your home or office where you will not be interrupted and think about what and how you an increase the amount of business you bring in. Your plan should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Bound). Do what you enjoy — tennis, skiing, ballroom dance, eat, drink, whatever. I have seen where it is advised to devote 100 hours and a budget of about $2,000 or so for the year. Most firms will reimburse you for such expenses, or more.

2. Keep your 3B list current and grow it The 3B list is your Best Book Builder list, and you must create and develop a list of contacts, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for people with whom you want to develop business relationships. Early in your career, the list will include friends, family, friends of your family, and college and law school classmates. An oft overlooked set of people in this group are your peers. Try to develop solid relationships with them, as they will be many of your strongest business referrals in the future.

3. Communicate enough to be remembered but not so much that people want to forget you. I have a friend who is absolutely incredible at this, and frankly I wish I was better. Again, it is not easy, but do find ways to stay on their minds. I love getting birthday cards or emails, but am horrible at remembering to send them. Mistake. Holiday cards are the same thing. Another mistake. When you see something that makes you think of someone drop them a note. If it is an article or case, email them a link, along with a short note.  I am developing a course as to how to best utilize Linkedin for lawyers. Call me and I can work with you to develop this as well. If possible, try to meet with your contacts once a quarter for lunch or dinner. The firm may reimburse this as well.

Obviously, there have been volumes written on this topic, and I can not share everything with you here. But, the earlier you begin to market, the better you will be at it.  The secret sauce in business development success is building relationships with potential clients. This is typically not done with a one-off call, but rather through a relationship built on reliability and confidence that has developed over time.

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