I am often asked by partners at law firms as to how they can encourage, motivate and teach their junior lawyers (trainees and associates), to capture new clients. When a fee earner begins to practice law, their firm are more concerned about improving their technical capacity, practical experience of working on matters and deciding which path to take in terms of specialty. The focus on growing and nurturing business relationships is often something that younger lawyers don't worry about or think they should be worrying about.
I think this is a big mistake. Do you really want to become that senior associate stuck at their firm? Who can't move up to partnership because they don't have the skills or knowledge required to generate enough business and no firm will hire because they don't have enough clients they can take with them?
When I started working in sales nearly 15 years ago (back then we still called it sales, rather than business development or other more glamorous sounding terms) I thought the only effective way to bring in business was by cold calling and meeting people. I had tried to sell through e-mail and it didn't work. Social media then became more prevalent as a communication tool and I remained sceptical. The first time I heard the term social selling I laughed out loud. LinkedIn really opened my eyes and was a game changer. I became a prolific user of LinkedIn and started to get results. I recently created and implemented a business development training program for a big international law firm across all seniority levels. The group of trainees were by far the most fun and engaged.
During one of the sessions we focused on the topic of social selling and I encouraged them to be creative and not solely rely on LinkedIn. Two weeks after the project had been completed one of the trainees called me, really excited.
"Michael, you will never guess what happened today. I just brought a new client into the firm."
Congratulations I told her, thinking what a great result.
"I did it through Facebook!"
"Huh?" "Facebook?" "How?"
She explained to me how she had been browsing Facebook one lunchtime and was reading a post in one of the law school alumni groups. There was a lawyer looking for assistance for one of their clients in a remote jurisdiction. Lazy replies to the post started flooding in, with other junior lawyers providing their contact details. This trainee realised her firm had a local presence in this particular country and decided to be more proactive and sent the other junior lawyer a private message suggesting a call. They spoke the same day and the partner responsible for the trainee from my sessions, saw the good sense to let her manage everything herself. Everything went very smoothly and they have become a good client for the firm, referring work on a regular basis.
Social selling does work, it just needs to be combined with good old fashioned techniques. Engaging with your prospect, getting their interest, building a relationship, following up and finally closing. The next opportunity can present itself anywhere through any form, you just have to be ready to act and grab it. You will become a more valuable lawyer as a result.