A lawyer’s most powerful business plan

by Jim Durham /

If I have learned one thing in my experience as a lawyer, consultant, and trainer, it is that lawyers typically have serious misconceptions about how they should “sell” legal services.

They think of business development as an unseemly proposition; they see it as an exercise in which they push themselves and their firms on people who don’t need or want what they have to offer.

If that were an accurate description of how you should sell legal services, I would not want any part of it either. Fortunately, that approach is just plain wrong.

Moreover, most lawyers want to believe that just being a great lawyer is enough to help them achieve all of their business development goals. I actually agree with the maxim that being a great lawyer IS the best business development plan.

The problem with this approach, however, is that lawyers want to define “great lawyers” in terms they understand, when what really matters is how clients define “great lawyers”.

Being a great lawyer always leads to client loyalty, client growth, and referrals — which means new business.

Put another way, my work has revealed that the most important qualities of successful lawyers relate to service and attitude; the quality of their drafting or their negotiating skills are not sufficient to distinguish great lawyers from everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, many rainmakers are also seen as great technical or procedural lawyers. But almost all lawyers are good at the law. Lawyers are overwhelmingly viewed as great by clients for other reasons, like providing real value beyond billable hours and operating with a client-centered focus. Unfortunately, these qualities weren’t taught in law school or in the early years of our careers as lawyers, however it is often these traits that turn solid process lawyers into the most successful and lauded attorneys. The key is to shift your mindset from gaining business to one of authentic relationship building. Rethink the way you deliver value to the clients you serve.

Learn why authenticity is the key to successful lawyers.