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7 quick ways to jump-start your firm’s business development efforts

By David H. Freeman  bio

Every so often, you may think, “I could use some fresh ideas to jump-start the firm’s business development efforts.” Or perhaps the managing partner is looking to you for some input on how to grow the business.

I have some resources that can help. Over the years, I’ve produced very short business development tips designed to trigger new approaches, all of which contain a specific call to action.

Here are a few you can share with other members of your firm.

1. Don’t fly solo

Things to do

  • Identify an initiative you’d like to accomplish/finish
  • Find another person you would like to work with: a lawyer in your group or complementary group; your assistant; a marketing professional; referral source
  • Schedule one to two meetings to get from thought to plan
  • Schedule follow-up meetings to bring the idea to closure

2. Encourage everyone to contribute to a culture of business development/

Things to do

For Associates

  • Find a business development mentor
  • Offer to help partners do some of the leg work – research and write first drafts of articles, start a blog, track relevant social media, etc.
  • Form an associates marketing committee
  • Meet associates in other practice groups, on other floors, in other offices

For Partners and Counsel

  • Find business development opportunities for other lawyers in the firm and make introductions
  • Find a “buddy” and co-market together
  • Ask lawyers in complementary practice groups how you might work together to attract more work to the firm
  • Take associates with you to functions and client development meetings

3. Show clients the love

Things to do

  • Identify your most important contacts, especially those who are in need during this slowdown
  • Consider ways you can help these people
  • Make contact, ask probing questions, learn their needs, and offer any possible assistance
  • Make sure to act on what you promise
  • Calendar a follow-up call to learn how your help played out

4. Find the silver linings

Things to do

  • Think carefully about the opportunities that exist in this market
  • If you have none, learn about opportunities from other practice areas in your firm
  • Develop 3 to 4 Silver Lining questions (“I’m wondering what your company is doing to take advantage of …”)
  • Make a list of your best clients and contacts and engage them in conversation about these opportunities

5. Maximize the client experience

Things to do

  • Learn as much as you can about your client’s business
  • Ask how your client likes to communicate and be highly responsive
  • Find ways to deliver value above and beyond the delivery of a good legal result
  • Take time to think proactively about your client’s needs
  • Understand and manage client expectations
  • Ask for and act on feedback you receive

6. Encourage cross-selling and educate complementary practice groups and attorneys

Things to do

  • Target practice groups and individual lawyers who can be good sources of referral business for you
  • Interview key lawyers to learn what topics would serve their clients
  • Prepare a “cheat sheet” of questions they can ask their clients on your behalf
  • Conduct a training session for a group, or have an educational meeting with an individual lawyer


  • How many educational sessions can you schedule this month?
  • Give yourself one point for conducting the session

Extra credit:

  • One extra point if hand out a “cheat sheet”
  • One extra point if you ask the group/individual lawyer for names of clients that might need your help
  • Two extra points if you get another lawyer to arrange a meeting with, or a presentation to, one of their clients

7. Make personal accountability a habit

Things to do

  • Hire yourself on a daily, weekly, or biweekly basis to engage in client development activities
  • Create an accountability buddy system (choose someone from your office, practice group, marketing department, friend, etc.)
  • Put client development activities on the same calendar used for substantive deadlines
  • Use your travel time for phone calls, thinking about strategies, etc.
  • Use your personal assistant to help you remember commitments and track progress

I hope you find these useful, and as always, feel free to share with others.

(And here are links to more resources: Video tips / Written Tips.)

David H. Freeman, J.D., founder of Law Firm CultureShift® and CEO of David Freeman Consulting Group, is a two-time best-selling author who has written four books on law firm leadership and business development. He has worked with nearly 200 law firms, has repeatedly been voted the top law firm business development coach and consultant in major nation-wide surveys, and is a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. He can be reached at 949-715-0819 or

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