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The Art of Building a Book of Business (pt. 2)

This is a continuation of The Art of Building a Book of Business (pt. 1). In that post, I shared four important takeaways about building a book of business:

–   Get out there and form relationships.

–   Everyone you meet is a potential client.

–   Invest time in mastering your craft/industry.

–   Learn to tactfully talk about your work and achievements.

Those four takeaways are all personal practices that individuals can develop by way of shifting their attitudes and forging into habits. But building a great book of business requires more than just developing great habits—it requires individuals to raise the bar and set themselves apart. The following four tips discuss how an attorney does just that.

To master the art of building a book of business, lawyers must:

Set great examples.

Not set a good example—but set GREAT examples! You cannot just listen and talk— you must walk the walk so that your body of work and achievements inspire others to want to be represented by you. It is important that others believe that you are an attorney who could effectively represent them and would always look out for their best interest. This is the reputation you must develop—and it is this reputation that all attorneys can take to the bank.

This means evaluating your perceived level of honesty. Attorneys get a bad rap for being “professional liars” and the general population certainly enjoys joking about attorneys in that manner—but when it comes down to hiring an attorney when they need one (whether an individual or an entity), no one wants to hire an attorney who seems the least bit dishonest. There are a variety of reasons for that; among the most, is that you don’t want the person billing you to be a liar.

This also means examining your interactions with clients, colleagues, and other attorneys. Are you the “partying” type who has pictures posted that suggest you enjoy a substance-packed evening? Remember that you don’t want any perception that you are too wild or out of control. Clients (and referring attorneys) want to know you will do the best work possible and make clear decisions, and know that you will handle yourself and their matters properly.

Act and behave at all times as you would want your attorney to act and behave.

Specialize—or develop specialty.

An attorney with a certain specialty is likely to get more work in that specialty when it becomes available. People will simply refer clients to you.

This begins early when law students are asked whether they are thinking about being transactional attorneys or litigators. As a lawyer’s career develops, an attorney will start to specialize in representing certain types of clients and handling certain types of matters. Eventually, developing a specialty in representing supply-side lenders that work in big agriculture means that you occupy a niche and will generate some business simply through that occupation.

The internet has increased the importance of specializing. Consider in your own life—if you were shopping for a Venus Fly Trap, you would search the internet for vendors and sellers of Venus Fly Traps. You would narrow your search and likely use the person or company who specializes in plants or tropical plants—and if you find someone who was also an expert in Venus Fly Traps, then that person suddenly becomes the only person you need.

In law—as with most service businesses—the specialist has the better chance of getting the business. Invest time in making yourself and your practice seem as specialized as possible.

Study marketing.

Learn about marketing in a way that suits you—whether that means reading articles or books or attending seminars. Every form of marketing can translate into getting legal clients. The effort you put into studying marketing is likely to pay far more than you put in. Remember that there are “soft” ways to sell as well (don’t take your interactions for granted!).

Don’t quit.

The practice of law can be stressful. Develop a strategy to stay resilient and to be on the lookout for clients. Even if you face a setback, get back up. You must to start somewhere and keep moving, otherwise will be—or end up—nowhere. Relationships take years to develop and require experimentation. If one strategy does not work, try another.

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