LawyersWeekly - Alex Gotch discusses how you can leverage your network to make a Partnership
Article Originally Published in LawyersWeekly
It is difficult to become a Partner if you don’t have your own clients. Alex Gotch of Beacon Legal comments “the lawyers who make Partnership quickly tend to be those who have developed their client base over many years and have a strong revenue-based business case”.
Lawyers have access to a strong network of potential clients, through university, their jobs past and present, professional groups and personal contacts. However, many lawyers do not prioritise developing their network with the same focus as developing their legal skills.
To become a Partner, you need a strong business case. The most compelling business cases contain a detailed breakdown, by client, of past and projected sustainable revenue. As a Partner, your role will change significantly from your days as a lawyer and you will be responsible for generating new work and developing current clients. This is a skill which can be mastered.
Alex Gotch from Beacon Legal has reviewed hundreds of business cases drafted by senior lawyers with aspirations to make Partner. In this article, we speak with Alex and set out some common challenges lawyers face when developing their network and suggests practical tips which you can implement to improve your business development strategy and increase your referrals.
If you make a conscious effort to improve your business development strategy, you should increase your chances of becoming a Partner.
What are the common pitfalls and how can you overcome these?
Often, lawyers miss out on client development opportunities due to common pitfalls in their approach. Here are some tips to overcome the most common challenges:
Keeping in touch with your network: How many potential clients are you connected with online, but haven’t spoken with for over a year? Most quality client relationships take years to monetise and often start with a coffee or keeping in touch. You should make an effort to maintain and initiate contact with your network on a regular basis, so your name will be front of mind when they need a lawyer or have a referral. Set aside a few hours every month to go through your LinkedIn connections and other relevant channels and book in catch-ups with anyone who could be a potential client, or has a professional profile which might lead to referrals. Your initial approach should be light-touch and not an attempt to sell; you will be surprised how many people are keen to connect for a coffee and a chat about the market.
Have a differentiating feature: The market for legal services is incredibly competitive. Becoming an expert in a certain area of law, so you can add more value than your competitors and become known in the market, is a primary way to set yourself apart. We advise making conscious decisions early in your career so you have the opportunity to develop into a specialist in a certain area. As you get more experienced, keep honing your skills and specialisation so you become known as an expert in the market.
Developing your LinkedIn profile: A lot of lawyers do not have an engaging LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a marketing tool which lawyers can effectively utilise – most clients and your network will check out your LinkedIn profile before interacting with you. This is one of the best active and passive business develop tools you can leverage. It is worthwhile spending time to draft an effective profile (or engaging a marketing professional to assist with this – you can get this done relatively cheaply). Your page should clearly set out your services, but not read like your personal CV. The page should be focused on what you can deliver for your clients, your track record, testimonials and importantly, have a tailored call to action. There are plenty of techniques and tips you can use to improve your LinkedIn profile in a short space of time. Publishing relevant articles is also an effective way to both generate leads and ensure clients have confidence in your expertise when they conduct an online search. Your marketing department should be able to help with this.
Connecting with the right people: Even if lawyers have a wide network, the referrals they receive might not be well-suited to their expertise. A great way to develop a relevant professional network is to attend industry events. It is important to ensure you maximise the opportunity at these events - you should make a conscious effort to meet and then keep in touch with attendees and follow up after the event to arrange a further discussion in person or virtually. Your approach can be light-touch and framed as an opportunity to meet fellow professionals in the same market, you do not need to try and sell your services straight away.
Asking for referrals If you don’t ask, you don’t get! It is important to ensure that your network knows what you do and what type of referrals you’d like to receive. Tell people what you do! It is hard to get a referral if your contacts do not understand what you can offer. Existing clients and contacts within your network may not know what to look for after you’ve asked them for a referral. To attract the right kind of clients, explain exactly what sort of client would be in need of your services, including what challenges they would face and how you could assist with those challenges.
Ambitious lawyers who want to make Partner should be thinking about business development from an early stage in their career. It takes years to build a significant client portfolio, so start early.
By applying these practical tips, lawyers can increase referrals and leverage their network on the path to Partnership.
If you would like to discuss your career and any tips and tricks which can help you develop your client network, or would like free advice on creating a lead generating, market facing LinkedIn page, contact Alex Gotch from Beacon Legal at Alex.Gotch@beacon-legal.com.au to set up a discussion.