What is the one thing every solicitor, accountant, attorney or barrister can do to improve their business development?

13 Feb 2018

Last week I was running a series of business development Q&As with some groups of soon-to-be-partners at a law firm. The session was a chance for them to review what they’d learned during the BD modules within their partnership training course and (mercifully) they appear to have learned a lot as the questions came thick and fast!


I closed each session somewhat predictably by inviting any final questions and one of the participants took the opportunity to ask what had to be the question of the day:


“What is the one thing you can do that will have the biggest impact on your business development?”


This question was as tricky as it was excellent. Regular readers will know the Tenandahalf ethos is very much to concentrate your time and efforts on the most productive seams of potential work (existing clients, professional contacts or new targets) and to concentrate on and get better at the BD activities that suit you best (networking, writing, speaking or research). 


With that in mind surely there couldn’t be a single answer that would apply to everyone in the room? Especially they all had different preferences activity-wise, had different personalities and represented different practice areas.


However it struck me there definitely is one thing every solicitor, accountant, barrister, clerk or patent or trade mark attorney can do to improve their BD irrespective of their specialism, practice area, preferred approach or what stage of their career they’re at.


If you haven’t come across the 80/20 rule before it basically says (in this context at least) that 80% of your work will come from 20% of your contacts. Therefore, to be as effective as you can be, you need to plough 80% of your business development time into that 20%.


If you haven’t already, take 5 or 10 minutes to think who your 20% are. Depending on what you do and the clients you work best with, your list may include existing clients, they may be fellow professionals who refer work to you or they may be brand new contacts you’ve met that you want to cultivate … or, best of all, a mix of the 3.

Whoever your list includes the one thing to bear in mind is given you are focussing solely on your key contacts, it’ll probably only include 8-10 names which should be more than manageable around your billable work.


Once you have your list the next stage is to get them into some sort of system so you can make sure you are seeing them regularly throughout the year so you’re always front of mind when new opportunities arise. 


A system just needs to be simple so you know exactly when you saw each contact last and when you need to see them again. In our experience ‘complicated and sophisticated’ simply doesn’t get used after an initial flurry! The system we use is the coffee plan (a glorified excel sheet  and if you’d like a copy please email me and I’ll send it over) but you can use anything you have to hand including Outlook, the notes function on your phone or even a good old fashioned notebook or diary.   


This may all sound very straightforward, even obvious (and it is and should be) but to me this is the one thing that will improve everyone’s approach to business development. 


Focussing on those who you know generate work for you in a more structured way will not only make sure you are best placed to get the next instruction from your shortlist, it’ll also make sure you receive the introductions to new contact and invitations to events that’ll be attended by even more potential new contacts. And those introductions and invitations will make sure both your network (and the number of new opportunities your network generates) continues to grow long into the future.   

Posted by Douglas  |   0 Comments

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