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The Single Most Effective Activity for Building the Law Practice You Want

A client recently asked, “what is the single most effective business development activity I can do over the next 90 days that will make the biggest difference in my practice?” The lawyer’s question summarizes a valid dilemma facing all lawyers — how to prioritize business development actions in a way that maximizes their time.

For lawyers balancing already busy schedules, a long list of business development to-dos quickly becomes overwhelming and often remains unfinished.  So, what is the single most effective business development action a lawyer can focus on without stretching themselves too thin and loosing efficiency?  

The answer to this question begins with two important steps. The first is to assess where you are today. The second is to clarify where you want your practice to be in the next 2-3 years. You cannot prioritize your actions without clarifying your long-term goals and comparing that to where you stand today.

Clarify your current goals and situation

Step 1: Clarify where you are today. Understanding where you are gives you focus and direction. Answer the following questions

  • Who are your best clients?
  • Where do your referrals come from?
  • What are your financial targets? How do they compare to a year ago?
  • What is working and what is not –how are you attracting more of the clients you want?


Strengths: You received multiple referrals from the same referral source. What is the source of this referral? i.e. Bar Association, board you are on, member of an association you participate in, presentation you gave or article you wrote.

Weaknesses: You have seen a decrease in the work you like most, i.e. large or complex cases. You realize you haven’t met with key referral sources in 6 months and have only sent random thank you notes to your referral sources in the last 12 months.

Step 2: Specify your long-term goals. What do you want to achieve and why it is important.? What areas of your practice do you want to grow?  What kind of clients do you want to attract? What financial targets to do you want to hit?

Set time aside for business development

Once you have clarified where you are and where you want to go, the most effective step you can take towards building your practice is to schedule a recurring time in your calendar to complete a specific checklist of business development actions that are aligned with your long-term goals.

Depending on your schedule, this time period could range from 30 to 60 minutes every week, every other week or every month. Figure out the realistic amount of time you can devote to business development. If you have 1 hour every month, schedule the hour into your calendar with the goal of gradually building in more time as your schedule permits. Consistency is key for achieving optimal results. This means being diligent about protecting the time you have scheduled for business development.

Create a Checklist

To ensure you are using your time effectively, create a checklist with concrete activities you will complete during your time block. As you work towards creating a checklist, remember that lawyers get found online and through referrals (trusted advisors, former clients or friends). Both sources reinforce each other, and the best referral is one who found you through both. Therefore, your checklist should work towards fostering your referral relationships and building your online reputation.

Prioritize the actions on your checklist by leveraging your strengths and managing your weaknesses for attracting desirable clients.

For example, if one of your critical weaknesses is not staying visible with your top referral sources, prioritize reaching out to those referral sources on your checklist.

The following are a few suggestions to add to your checklist:

Foster Your Referral Relationships

  1. List your top referral sources and targeted professionals. Ask yourself what professionals/clients do you want to strengthen your relationship with? Your list may include:
    1. People you met at networking events
    2. Law school alumni and legal network
    3. Professionals who serve your target client
    4. Professionals who are thought leaders for a service that complements yours 
  2. Provide value, follow up and reach out consistently. Include what action you will take to reach out to your referral network.
    • Set up an information sharing meeting to learn about their target client and services.
    • Send a referral
    • Make a recommendation on social media or a legal website
    • Write a blog and include a quote from a referral source or targeted professional.
    • Send a personal written note congratulating them on an award, promotion or recent event.

Build Your Online Reputation 

  1. Use social media to reach out to your network. 
    • Use LinkedIn to maintain your visibility and stay informed about your network.
    • Interact with your referral sources and professional network on social media. Comment on a relevant post, acknowledge work accolades or like/share their articles.
  2. Post an article or content that aligns with your brand. This can be original content or an article you have read closely that reflects your values.  
  3. Strengthen your online profile. Communicate why clients should choose you.

Overall, once you have clarified your current situation and goals, the single most effective step you can take in business development is to schedule time to focus on specific actions. The work you do every day, every week and every month will determine what your practice will look like in the future. You have the control to create the practice you want by executing one checklist at a time. If you would like to discuss how you can take the next steps in your firm’s business development contact me online or at (414) 828-5862.

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