Blog/Podcast: Can’t Commit to Business Development? An Expert Shares 4 Ways to Make It Stick

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David Ackert, president of Ackert Inc., helps firms take action by developing and implementing business development programs. He has served as a mentor for thousands of high-achieving lawyers, and he’s known as a pioneer in applying technology to the business development process in law firms. He joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to share his tried-and-true strategies for truly embedding business development into your firm.

  1. Create Constructive Intrusions

The biggest obstacle that stops business development in its tracks is the day-to-day demands of client work. Most lawyers understand the importance of business development, but it can feel impossible to balance it with urgent work that needs to get done in the short-term. To get these efforts to stick, business development must cut through everyday noise.

David’s suggestion? Create intrusions. For example, a standing meeting with a business coach is an interruption in your day, but it forces you to stop whatever you’re doing and spend an hour or two on business development. For intrusions to work, however, they must be constructive—a phone constantly buzzing will only serve to distract you, while a constructive intrusion is planned and allows you to easily transition back into your daily work. David has found that these forced interruptions can be crucial in accelerating business development.

  1. Customize Strategies for Your Firm

So you’d like to try using intrusions to increase business development activity, but which kind will work for you? These techniques are not one-size-fits-all. Every firm will navigate this maze a little differently, simply because every culture is unique and lawyers each bring their own personalities and dynamics to the table.

For example, for some clients, David encourages business development by introducing healthy competition. Every lawyer is given a score based on their business development efforts, and the scores are publicly shared and discussed at meetings. This strategy works well at firms where lawyers thrive on competition and there’s enough camaraderie that lawyers don’t take it too personally. At another firm, it could fall flat or even create tension between attorneys. What works for one firm or one lawyer won’t necessarily work for another, so you must know yourself and your firm culture to create a successful system.

  1. Use the Most Powerful Incentive

Few things motivate people as much as money does. Why not apply this principle to your business development efforts? David worked with one firm to create a bonus pool that lawyers gain access to when they complete their business development goals. This has created a significant incentive for attorneys to do something they might otherwise ignore—another kind of constructive intrusion that helps lawyers broaden their daily focus.

This is also a potentially paradigm-shifting approach for law firms, where most lawyers are compensated based on lagging indicators: hours billed and revenue generated in the past. Using bonuses to incentivize business development focuses on leading indicators—things a lawyer is doing today that will lead to revenue in the future. Firms tend to have a wait-and-see mindset that discourages lawyers from doing work that doesn’t have an immediate positive result, but business development takes time. Rewarding leading indicators helps attorneys and firms take the long view and reap rewards in the future.

  1. Reduce Human Effort

There’s one overarching truth when it comes to law firm business development: the more effort lawyers have to put into client data entry and tracking, the less likely they are to do it. When attorneys have to spend time logging every detail of an interaction with a client, it creates friction that ultimately leads to low utilization of the CRM tool.

David predicts that this is where AI and other forms of automation will come in, but even without access to these tools, there are things firms can do right now to reduce human effort. Are lawyers not using the CRM system because it’s poorly designed? Do they need more education on how to use it? Is it time to find outside business development support, or a new CRM tool altogether? Answering these questions will highlight the flaws in the system and help your firm find new ways to gain insight—without putting more burden than necessary on lawyers.

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