It’s easy for a young lawyer to feel overwhelmed in the first few years practicing law. From writing briefs and filing motions to reviewing documents and preparing for trial, there is very little time left for much else. However, it’s important for a young lawyer to think about and plan time for business development, especially if they would like to become a partner some day.
Business development is extremely important for a firm. If there are no cases, there is no reason to hire attorneys and staff. Business comes to the firm in one of two ways: referrals from other attorneys who know you or your firm’s work, or direct contact from a potential client which is usually the result of some type of marketing. For this reason, it’s important that young attorneys build a strong network of professional contacts that can refer cases to them.
If your firm has a marketing department, take some time to get to know these people and ask them to help you create your personal marketing strategy and plan. If your firm doesn’t have a marketing staff, then talk with the office administrator or other attorneys for some suggestions for creating a marketing plan. What’s important is that you take the time to think out a strategy for building a network that can refer business to you.
I’m a big believer in “what gets measured gets done” so your strategic marketing plan needs to list specific goals and the activities that you will do to reach them. When setting goals, I like to make sure that they are SMART. This stands for:
Specific: State clearly exactly what it is that you are going to do. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? Why are you going to do it? These questions help you define your goals.
Measureable: Make sure your goals provide a gauge for your success. How many appointments do you want to make? How many luncheons are you going to attend? How many business cards are you going to collect? Quantify your goals whenever possible.
Attainable: Your goal should be a stretch for you. Set a goal that requires you to be a bit creative but is still within grasp. This will keep you motivated and successful.
Realistic: Make sure your goal is something that can actually be accomplished. If you are traveling for depositions three out of four weeks this month, it will probably not be possible for you to have lunch with 3 people in your network this month. Be sure when you set the goal that you have the resources, in this case time, to reach your goal.
Timely: Give yourself a deadline. An example would be that you would like to attend a Bar Association event. Instead of stating your goal that way, add the words “before the end of the quarter”. This way you can hold yourself accountable and achieve your goal.
It’s important to note that your plan should be in writing. By committing these goals to paper, or a word document, you will have something concrete to reference. SMART goal setting is a great tool that can help you manage your activities better so you feel less overwhelmed. So be SMART about your business development activities by thinking strategically, acting creatively, and most importantly–holding yourself accountable.