Published on 10/29/07
In a recent article, I read a new reason given for why lawyers hate marketing and can't "sell." Consultant Larry Richard, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology as well as a J.D., suggests that it's because lawyers have little or no "resiliency."
Dr. Richard reached his conclusion by giving the Caliper Profile, a widely used personality test, to a large cross-section of lawyers and comparing the results to those of the general population. He defines resiliency as "the ability to bounce back from criticism or rejection," and says of lawyers that, despite our outward confidence, we are too often sidetracked into defensiveness.
Resiliency is essential for successful marketing. Even successful sales people will frequently meet criticism and rejection, but their focus is consistently on achieving the next "yes" rather than dwelling on the last "no." They view "no" as one more step on the journey to "yes."
While lawyers may believe they are not marketing oriented or skilled, I believe everyone can market, given the proper firm-wide support. If individual lawyers are encouraged to market themselves, and are given the tools to do so, the marketing process will become second nature.
The earlier lawyers begin to market, the better they will be at it, because the key to business development success is building relationships with potential clients.
Relationship development starts by encouraging associates to undertake fundamental business development activities apart from the work that partners assign to them. This can be as simple as communicating regularly with law school friends to discuss cases, clients, war stories, and to develop referral sources. Or it can be a more organized effort like getting associates out into the public eye by writing articles and attending lunch or bar association functions, particularly when these things are done with established older partners.
Associates should also be encouraged to do "blawging" (either individually or on behalf of the firm) and to contribute to client news updates. Associates can use these tools to establish the expertise that entices prospects to become clients.
A firm-wide Client Relationship Management database can be crucial to this process. In simple terms, a CRM database centralizes a firm's collective knowledge about clients and prospects, and makes it available to all authorized users.
In addition to contact information and matter details, both client and prospect entries should have the history of every business development activity undertaken with them by the firm and its attorneys — golf outings, seminars, newsletter mailings and new business pitches.
Every relationship interaction by any attorney adds information to the database as a means to track marketing activities, cross-refer practice services, expand contact networks, and reinforce contact relationships.
Steps like these institutionalize the process of marketing, so that the burden isn't completely on the individual lawyer. They change the "my client" mentality to an "our client" approach that can make everyone — resilient or not — a rainmaker.