As marketers working with litigators to help build their business, we often hear pushback to the tune of: “I’m too busy.” “The work is already coming in.” “If I focus on a niche, I’ll lose other business.” All of which may be true but isn’t going to be a sustainable approach to obtaining more clients in the long-term.
We recognize that litigators are in a distinctive position when it comes to business development. Unlike their transactional counterparts, there isn’t a natural flow of work coming in the door, and it can be tough to identify a prospective client list, i.e. people who might be sued. Of course there are exceptions to this – litigators working with large corporate clients that have ongoing litigation – but for the boutique litigation firm or litigator within a full-service law firm, the strategies for lead generation are going to be different.
Craig Brown, a Law Firm Business Development Consultant with LawVision and a former litigator, recently spoke on “Business Development for Litigators” at the Legal Marketing Association Western Region Continuing Marketing Education Conference. He examined key tactics that are effective in creating successful rainmakers:
- Build relationships with clients for future work before the litigation ends. When you are in the middle of a case, constantly be thinking, “What’s the next step?” How can you turn the contacts involved in the litigation into referral sources? How can you uncover other needs they may have?The critical part to emphasize is during litigation. The litigation process typically isn’t fun and clients want to move on once it’s over. You want to further the relationship while the client is in front of you.
- Network within your firm to generate business. Litigation work often stems from the firm’s deal work. A firm has a transactional client who gets in trouble, and the work segues to the litigation department; therefore, you need to network within your firm much more than attorneys in other practice areas do.
- Nurture relationships with lawyers who don’t do what you do and market your reputation. Boutique litigation firms are frequently known for being the hired gun and much of the incoming work is reputation-based, so it’s critical that firms brand themselves in their market’s mind. You have to build relationships so that lawyers or other referral sources are aware of your expertise and keep you top-of-mind. In turn, boutique litigators need to be cognizant of prospective clients that don’t immediately need your litigation skills and be seen as a resource by making referrals or taking other reciprocal actions, e.g., making introductions to other professionals until a litigation need arises.
- Market a specialization to more easily open the door to new business. Litigators are generally academically curious and relish applying their expertise to a range of different industries. Your positioning may be, “Give me the facts and I can litigate it.” This works when the work is already in the door but in terms of marketing, it’s all about focus and litigators are often resistant to this idea. To strike a balance, consider creating niche practices for business development outreach. Identify a set time period to really focus on one or two industries and become the go-to litigator for those industries. Focusing marketing in these areas does not preclude taking work outside of these areas, and is much more effective than trying to be all things for all people.
- Leverage your personality traits to develop long-term referral relationships. There are a number of litigators who become legends at their firm – a lawyer who naturally brings in a lot of work because they have an outsized personality, or are a true networker and “people person.” A young litigator may come on board and think, “I have to act like that lawyer,” but you’re destined for failure if you’re not the same personality type. You’ll be much more successful if you recognize your own strengths and leverage them. Prospective clients and referral sources will value your expertise and authenticity whether you’re the life of the party or more of an introvert.
- Turn awareness activities into relationship activities. The majority of litigators are already doing some sort of marketing – writing, speaking, member of an industry organization – and these are considered awareness or credibility activities that make people aware of you. These are one-to-many-type activities and often lawyers, particularly litigators, want to rely solely on their brand, then sit back and wait until people come to them. Work occasionally does come in that way. Someone will read an article and say, “This lawyer is definitely the most knowledgeable person on this topic; let’s hire her when we have that issue.” But more often, business comes in because there’s a relationship – you already know someone with the issue or someone trusts you and recommends you.
The idea is to turn awareness activities into relationship activities. If you’re writing an article, for example, turn this into a relationship activity by simply reaching out to a prospective client or referral source, and say, “I’m writing this article, I’d appreciate your input” or “Can I quote you?” You can start building a relationship before you’ve even published the article. Use awareness activities as a tool to further relationships with those you want to obtain business or referrals from.
Whether you’re a legal marketer, firm administrator or litigator trying to generate new leads, recognize that marketing a litigation practice may look different than other practice areas. By applying the above tips, litigators can intentionally build key relationships and become outstanding rainmakers.
Read Berbay’s LMA Continuing Marketing Education Conference recap “8 Keys to Riding the Wave of Change” here.
Watch the conference webinar recap here.
View the infographic here.