Make the most of your summer business development
We are all familiar with the private bar adage of grinder, minder, finder. That was so yesterday!
Lawyers today are faced with the daunting task of having to do it all. Doing it all now means practising law at the highest level, demonstrating to your client how irreplaceable you are, attending continuing learning sessions and most importantly business development. It used to be okay that you mastered just the practising piece; and that would be the main reason you were kept busy in the world of private practice. Partners at your firm would feed you work because you were smart and could handle pretty much anything given to you.
Well, this is sadly no longer the case. There have been many changes over the last 10 years especially in the area of client development and retention. Perhaps it is the economics of law or other reasons, but either way, the reality has set in and the business of law has a completely new complexion. While rainmakers have existed for years, the prior generations of rainmakers didn’t necessarily do the work. It was okay for them to delegate it all. Today, you will learn that these lawyers are in the twilights of their career and the next generation does not resemble the past.
Everyone needs to be the consummate lawyer: so, if you fall within the minder and grinder category, how can you be sure that you are doing your part as a finder? There is no better time than the short Canadian summer months to put your skills to the test. While taking a client or contact (read: source of influence) to play golf is a great way to build a relationship with a prospect, it is just one of the ways and certainly not ideal for all. Firstly, let’s discuss what a round of golf can accomplish, before exploring alternatives for those who can’t stand spending four or more hours outside, in the sunshine and nature (yes I love golf!).
A round of golf allows you to demonstrate your integrity (read: don’t cheat!), be a gracious host (always offer Caesars and snacks on the course), and most importantly, letting your prospect win (actually — that’s not necessary). Finally, and for some, the best part of golf, enjoying a cold one, or nice glass of wine afterwards while reminiscing on the round, or just shooting the breeze.
If golf isn’t your thing, then it shouldn’t be used as a tool to develop business because four hours on the course can easily turn into five, with unexpected, and usually uncontrolled, expletives being shared. Before exploring alternatives, there are so many golf tournaments each spring, and even for those that are not big into golf, buying a foursome and inviting three of your contacts or clients allows you to spend quality time together in a very relaxed atmosphere, sharing jokes, drinks under the guise of a competition that is really not that serious. This will also allow your contacts to connect together, further embedding yourself into quality relationships. Of course, you need to think carefully when choosing a foursome, hoping to find common ground among each participant. Very important that this is about everyone — not just you!
There are many alternatives to golf. While a patio lunch is always an easy to way to build a relationship, sadly lunch is brief and it doesn’t always provide sufficient time and atmosphere, although definitely better than lunch at the food court with your pals. Better than lunch, and often less expensive, is going out after work for a drink on one of many city patios that exist in your neck of the woods. The day is over, and you have a chance to just unwind together sharing stories on your day, week, or even your year. No pressure to run back to the office. Sometimes these after-work drinks turn into dinner. Even better.
So, you’ve decided lunch, drinks or golf is not your thing; what next? Across Canada there are many summer activities that naturally lend themselves to a great time away from the office, and a chance to build those key relationships. For example, there are a multiple of jazz festivals and outdoor concerts if music is your thing. Dinner first goes well with this. Of course, in Calgary there is Stampede that is already a major source of client development for many lawyers and other businesses. In Montreal there is the Grand Prix for car enthusiasts in June and Rogers Cup tennis in August. A great environment seemingly far away from work, and a great atmosphere every summer. There is even polo now available just north of Toronto. B.C. obviously offers some of the best winter and spring skiing, and what a great way to bond with your clients than spending a day at Whistler. Of course, if you aren’t feeling any of the above, there is the CFL across the country as well as baseball at the minor and major league levels.
Finally, and only if none of these options gets you excited, there is always the old-reliable business development tool that many forget. Writing. That’s right, thought leadership! Perhaps you are highly introverted and are trying to find the way you can best demonstrate your finder abilities. Try writing, speaking or blogging. The summer is a great time to put pen to paper and share your expertise with the world. You can also use this time to identify speaking opportunities over the course of the coming year. There really is no better way to demonstrate your multitude of talents than being a thought leader in your area of expertise. Business development can take on so many different ways, and frankly, the best way is to make yourself a thought leader, if you aren’t already. Many feel this is a great way to put yourself out there, but during the year, find it hard to make time for such activity. The more your practice specializes in one particular field, the more likely it is you are knowledgeable and seasoned in this narrow field. Share your knowledge with the world, even if it means giving free advice. People will respect your wisdom in the public sharing via blogging or writing. Eventually, this time and investment will pay off with the profile raising you have accomplished — but it needs consistency and frequency.
If you are now in July and are still trying to find the time, seize the moment. Summer is sadly only two short months. It will be over before you know it.
Warren Bongard established his own legal search firm in 1996 before he co-founded ZSA Legal Recruitment in 1997. As president and co-founder, Bongard manages lawyer recruitment operations and focuses his practice on partner-level hires and special in-house assignments. Warren is passionate about his family and when time permits, lowering his handicap in golf.