Legal Business Development – A Step by Step Guide, By Jim Hassett, PhD

I must admit that I’m always a little skeptical about non-lawyers who purport to teach rainmaking or practice development skills. Nothing against non-lawyers, obviously, but I’ve seen too many suggestions that might work beautifully in another field but wouldn’t fit at all in law. And so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Legal Business Development. However, it turned out to be one of the best client development books I’ve ever read.Hassett’s message is simple: plan and execute. In just 26 pages, Hassett explains how to create a marketing plan focused on current clients and referral sources and how to implement that plan and evaluate its success. Unlike many rainmaking books, Legal Business Development separates the “must know” from the “useful to know” information so that readers can implement quickly. Hassett encourages those who are ready to begin marketing to read chapter one only after execution is underway.The “good to know” information follows and offers more depth on how much marketing is necessary, how to turn current clients into raving fans, and how to strengthen your rainmaking skills. I particularly like the simplicity of Chapter 3, which presents six facts about new business:

You must start with current clients. Keeping a satisfied client is much easier than bringing in new clients.

Selling is a learned skill. A variety of strategies work for developing new business, but every lawyer will need to put in time to identify and refine the strategies that he or she will apply most successfully.

You must listen. Listening is a non-negotiable for successful business development.

You must plan advances. Advances are steps that move the “sales” action forward. The concept is well expressed in a book chapter title by Mark Maraia that Hassett cites: “Avoid Random Acts of Lunch.”

Selling is a numbers game. Not all contacts will result in business, so the more contacts made, the greater the chance of creating new business.

It’s all about relationships. Clients hire lawyers (as opposed to law firms), and prefer to hire lawyers they know, like, and trust.
As I frequently remind the clients with whom I work one-on-one on business development, consistency is the key to rainmaking. Hassett presses the same point by recommending a weekly check-in on marketing hours and advances. Tracking results increases the chances of following through on a marketing plan, and doing so weekly provides extra impetus – especially if you choose to share your results with someone for added accountabilityHassett also provides seeder questions to get clients talking. I’m sometimes surprised when charming conversationalists admit that it’s tough to enter into a deep conversation with clients. Asking for feedback can be difficult, and asking in a way that seeks honest feedback (rather than empty assurances) can take a special touch. Hassett offers four groups of questions:
Questions to begin a conversation (many of which would be appropriate for potential client conversations, as well);
Questions to determine the client’s overall level of satisfaction with the firm’s services;
Questions to gauge the client’s satisfaction with particular aspects of the services rendered; and
Questions designed to help the client identify ways in which the firm could provide even better service.

If you plan to purchase one book to support your business development efforts, I recommend that Legal Business Development be the one. Hassett’s approach is direct and is designed to get maximum impact from the relatively small period of time that most lawyers have available for business development activity. Most importantly, Legal Business Development provides the tools and the “kick” to move consistently from planning to execution.