I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges of being an attorney is keeping both my current clients happy (and thus, my senior partners happy) while also growing my practice and obtaining new clients.
After all, as attorneys, we perform multiple roles for our clients — counselor, mediator and deal-maker — while also serving as head of business development and “owners” of our own practice, depending upon the firm. This can make for a difficult balance, especially if the attorney is also a parent or a caregiver. After all, there are only so many hours in the day!
One way to balance the dual roles is to look to your current clients as potential referral sources. If you treat them with respect and obtain a favorable result, they will tell their friends and family. I think current clients are often overlooked as a key referral source probably because you don’t have to convince them that you deserve their business – you’ve already done that by doing a good job. It’s a passive way for you to generate business without having to spend substantial time cultivating it.
Another tip that I need to take to heart more myself is to learn when it is necessary to end an extended meeting or conversation. Part of our jobs is to build rapport with our clients, especially when dealing with sensitive or emotional practice areas such as estate planning. Once you’ve heard the story once, do you need to spend another 30 minutes hearing it again, in a subsequent meeting? Probably not. It can be difficult to end a meeting with someone you have built a rapport with but it’s also a skill we should all learn. After all, our time, even if calculated at a flat fee, is what we sell.
Finally, it’s important to remember to take care of not only your own clients but also the clients of your senior partners — your bosses. This, too, can be a delicate balance, especially coupled with marketing and networking activities, all that have nothing to do with getting the partner’s project complete. Somehow, we all get it done, I am sure. Long days or working during the weekend, for example. Perhaps incorporating other passive methods of business development may help with this, too.
After all, the longer we practice and engage within the community at large, the more likely our friends and colleagues will be referring business directly. In time, your good work and reputation can speak for itself!
Do any of our readers have any suggestions as to successfully juggling the needs of current clients and future clients?
Richard Adams is an associate with Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP in Baltimore.