The thought of building a practice for most attorneys is daunting. Many understandable hesitations, including fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of inefficiency, act as roadblocks that prevent attorneys from growing the largest books of business they’re capable of developing.
As legal marketing professionals, not only do we have the opportunity to impart our client development tools and techniques to the attorneys with whom we work, but also to encourage our attorneys to be motivated and optimistic during the daunting process.
Below are the six most common client development fears that keep attorneys from developing business, as well as ways legal marketers can help douse these fears in order to keep firms’ books of business growing:
- Fear of Rejection. There will be times when your attorneys’ prospects say “no.” Fear of rejection can be paralyzing; everyone is familiar to it at least to some degree.
Solution: Reassure your attorneys that a “no” is not a rejection of them as a human being; perhaps the prospect is simply not in need of the attorney’s services at this time.
In instances of “no,” coach your attorneys to further negotiate. Encourage them to commit the prospect to a future interaction. Your attorney’s response to the prospect might include, “Would you mind if I followed up with you in three months to see if your situation has changed?” A prospect’s circumstances and legal needs can shift at a moment’s notice. Attorneys can achieve a “yes” today by committing their prospects to a future interaction.
- Fear of Failure. In contrast to the fear of rejection, the fear of failure prevents attorneys from pursuing activities outside their comfort zone. Up to this point, your attorneys have likely enjoyed success — whether professionally, academically, athletically or in their personal life. What happens when you suggest they step outside their lawyering zone into the client development zone? They may wonder, “Will I be equally successful in this arena?”
Solution: Work with your attorneys on their annual business plan. Advise them in mapping out whom they are targeting and where to network, and point out specific ways their experience and background can add value to a prospect’s business. Regular follow-up meetings throughout the year can provide accountability, encouragement and additional ideas.
- Fear of Success. On its face, the fear of success seems unimaginable. However, the thought of developing new clients when your attorneys can barely service their current clients can be daunting, as can trusting a colleague to handle a client matter.
Solution: To minimize these fears, work with your attorneys to build a virtual team — a network of colleagues and referral sources who have complementary skill sets. You may even need to collaborate with your firm’s recruiting professionals to identify and hire additional talent.
- Fear of Interaction. Many attorneys are social introverts and can tend to revert to details of work in social settings. Social introverts can be fearful of venturing outside of these details with people they don’t know well.
Solution: Suggest socially introverted attorneys network with a colleague or referral source who is more outgoing. Encourage them to participate in online discussion groups (e.g., LinkedIn groups) or author articles where their expertise and value can be demonstrated through writing.
- Fear of Identity Loss. Most of us know or have an image in our minds of the typical salesperson — overly aggressive and tenacious about convincing you to buy their product or service that you do not need or want. We have yet to find an attorney who wishes to be associated with this type of reputation.
Since the Great Recession, the definition of a successful attorney is now twofold: being an excellent practitioner and being able to successfully market their services. If your attorneys graduated from law school prior to 2008, they were likely conditioned that learning to practice law was all that is required.
Solution: Advise your attorneys that there is a difference between salesmanship and problem solving. Compelling someone to buy something they do not need is salesmanship; overcoming a legal challenge in order for the business to move forward is problem solving.
- Fear of Inefficiency. With only 24 hours in a day, time is money. What guarantees can you provide your attorneys that time spent on client development (and away from the billable hour) will result in new business?
If you have litigators at your firm, you understand that being busy today does not guarantee activity tomorrow. Cases settle, transactions close and your attorneys beat a pathway to your office in the hopes that you can wave your magic wand to make them busy again.
Solution: When swamped with work, help your attorneys identify available times in their day to market — eating lunch with a client, prospect or referral source or making “check-in” calls during their commute. If they are resolute in growing their practice and you are consistent in your follow-up, time spent away from the billable hour will be effective and help ensure a steady flow of billable hours in the future.
Everyone within a firm wants to see prosperous client development. Partner with your attorneys to help them overcome whatever challenges may be preventing them from reaching their potential. Your encouragement and guidance can provide them with the confidence that “they have a chance,” while simultaneously demonstrating to your attorneys your ability to increase the bottom line Your dedication to their success will likely help elevate your role within your firm as well.
Jonathan R. Fitzgarrald and Greg Wildes of Equinox Strategy Partners provide lawyers and law firms across the United States with strategic guidance to drive revenue and increase market visibility. For more information, visit EquinoxStrategy.com and connect with us on LinkedIn.