A Better Way to Generate New Client Leads: The Zoom Roundtable

In the early months of the pandemic, many lawyers were especially attentive to their key clients and referral sources, recognizing the importance of checking in. Firms reassured their clients that business would continue on without interruption, emails were exchanged to offer support to anyone who might need it, and Zoom calls were scheduled to connect in virtual happy hours.

There’s a natural tendency to lose this momentum over time, so the challenge becomes finding sustainable practices for maintaining those professional relationships as the risks of in-person meetings remain high.

When the demands of personal life have risen for many, especially those with school-aged children, and Zoom fatigue is setting in, it is increasingly important to find a way to continue connecting with potential clients and referral sources.

Fortunately, there is an effective alternative. Rather than dedicate an enormous amount of time to one-on-one calls, you can strategically select anywhere from three to eight people to catch up with at once. In addition to majorly cutting down on the burden these networking activities have on your schedule, this will allow you to offer great business development opportunities to your contacts.

Seven Tips for Running a Successful Zoom Roundtable

  1. Your selection of invitees is the most important aspect of this process, so make sure you are giving plenty of thought to its business purpose for your work and how you can create value for the others involved.
  2. Choose each group of people (start with three or four people) so that it makes sense for them to meet one another. For instance, you could organize a meeting around a particular clientele served by each attendee in a different way.
  3. Consider having a co-host to share your networking duties.
  4. As the host, you should send out information a day or two ahead that gives some background on who is going to be there.
  5. Have attendees bring their calendars so you can schedule the next roundtable at the end of the call.
  6. Imagine that lots of other people will be hosting similar remote get-togethers, so limit the call to an hour or so.
  7. Ask your first group whom they know that would fit well and consider making it a recurring event with rotating combinations of people. You could have, say, twenty members with eight people meeting at a given time.

As we continue settling into this prolonged period of remote social life, these small groups represent one of the most efficient and effective paths under the present circumstances to generate leads and attract new clients.

Troubling Signs for Non-Equity Partners

The legal services industry, along with much of the country, is coming to terms with the reality that COVID-19 is not the short, temporary interruption many had hoped. We are beginning to see law firms make more permanent adjustments. Headlines in publications like the American Lawyer are already highlighting the acquisition of stars in hot practice areas, but what won’t be included in the press releases is what will happen to less-desirable practices areas and less-favored attorneys.

While winners in bankruptcy, internal corporate investigations, and healthcare may be sought after right now, a larger number of attorneys work in areas of litigation and transactions that are slowing down. Behind many announcements of new partners will likely be untold stories of other lawyers at those firms who have been demoted from the ranks of partner or had their compensation reduced.

Through the end of the year and into the first quarter of 2021, we expect to continue seeing attorneys who represent certain industries, such as retail and hospitality, suffering severely. Lawyers whose work is focused on serving these industries should start to create options for themselves now. Many partners, regardless of the clients they serve, will need to consider making a move during the first quarter of 2021 when bonuses are usually paid. Given the magnitude of the economic, societal, and health-related changes that are buffeting our lives, some lawyers who have always felt secure at their firms will find themselves looking for an exit in the months to come.

While we may be in physical isolation, this is not the time to isolate from one’s network. For non-equity partners whose clients have been hit especially hard, avoid the temptation to wait for the bad news to come to you. Likewise, it’s a sign of intelligence, not weakness, to begin identifying allies with whom you can discuss forthrightly your situation and your concerns.

By starting the process now, attorneys can give themselves the time to cultivate strong relationships within their networks before asking for any favors. This is also the moment to be present for one’s existing clients through the hard times. When economic activity returns to more normal levels, the demand for legal professionals will return for a vast majority of lawyers. But non-equity partners first need to cross some very choppy waters.

Don’t Neglect Your VIP List

In the hustle of your daily work, it’s far too easy to let important networking activities fall by the wayside. It’s even easier to ignore key networking responsibilities when you are isolated at home and justifiably preoccupied with health concerns, family care, and the general state of affairs. But now more than ever, it is crucial to strengthen your relationships with your VIPs.

You only have so much bandwidth to keep up your professional connections, so we recommend aiming for a list of twenty-five to thirty-five names. You may have some idea in your head of where your work comes from, but this list should be based on the data. Look into any new business brought in over the past few years and identify from the numbers who your best referral sources really are.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on those other individuals who may have come to mind, but your VIP list should be pruned every few months to ensure you’re spending your time wisely. A connection that hasn’t been as fruitful lately could still be a great resource if that person has proven willing to help in the past. Your selections will be a combination of your current top referrals and those you can see supporting the future growth of your book of business.

If you’re reading this and thinking you’ll never find the time, recognize that this work is some of the most easily delegated. Someone on your staff can do the legwork of investigating past referrals and tallying these sources. An assistant could also handle the next step of scheduling calls and meetings to follow up with these VIPs. Once you have a system in place for choosing and connecting with your contacts, keeping your networking efforts focused and efficient will become just another part of your routine.

The goal of networking is to acquire new business, so go forward with that aim in mind. Don’t overwhelm yourself considering hundreds of connections when the evidence will point you toward a much smaller core of referral sources. These relationships are invaluable assets to your practice. These are your VIPs, and they should be treated as such.

Why Personal Branding Is a Career Development Strategy

When you first start your legal career, you build your book of business by chasing down clients one-by-one through time-consuming networking efforts. Acquiring business on an individual basis is pretty much unavoidable at this stage, but it shouldn’t be that way for your entire work life.

As you gain expertise in your field, you can take advantage of promotional opportunities that will start to make your name synonymous with your specialties. To some extent, you may always have the typical coffees and lunches as part of your strategy, but wider-reaching speeches, TV interviews, social media exposure, and articles can allow you to become a minor celebrity in your practice areas so that clients request you specifically.

If you’ve authored books on the subject a client needs help with, they’re much more likely to accept higher fees as they feel confident in your qualifications and reputation. You’re unique among your competition, so pricing becomes less of an issue.

The unfortunate truth is that most lawyers never even try to create a personal brand or position themselves where potential clients ask for them by name. Many do twenty years of traditional networking and don’t think to employ these other tools. This works out in your favor if you’re willing to pursue brand-building opportunities that other attorneys may let pass them by.

If you’d rather not add hours and hours of networking events and meetings to your already busy schedule, begin establishing yourself publicly as an expert in your field. As you move forward in your career, the investments you make here will allow you to spend less time seeking new business because new business will come to you.

What Not to Do When You’re Not Busy Enough

When lawyers and other professionals are used to being busy, it can be especially challenging when they hit a slow patch. Two sub-optimal responses tend to repeat themselves.

1. Overcompensating

You know the feeling. You haven’t worked out for weeks or months. You feel bad about it so you tell yourself that you will get back on track by going to the gym four days a week for the next three months.

How does this usually turn out?

A similar dynamic applies when lawyers and other professionals feel that they have neglected their marketing and networking efforts.  They feel bad about it and they overcompensate.

This is the lawyer who schedules 10 networking events in 30 days when they previously attended five events in the prior six months.

Likewise, this is the impulse that causes five blog posts to be written in the first week or sparks a sudden commitment to launch a podcast.

And how do these typically turn out?

Exactly like most New Years Eve commitments tend to workout. The commitment bursts on the scene like a supernova but fades out fast.

2.  Constructive Avoidance

The second sub-optimal response to having too few clients in the pipeline is to avoid the problem by keeping busy.

This explains the actions of the attorneys who suddenly volunteer for all sorts of projects, such as organizing bar association conferences, or take on work at one half of their normal hourly rate.

Why do smart professionals ignore a problem as important as not having enough good, well-paying clients?

It’s because it’s painful not to be busy and helping people feels good. Moreover, constructive avoidance is especially likely to take place when you lack confidence that your business development efforts will be successful.

The good news is that overcompensation and constructive avoidance are common and fixable. Focusing on growing your business during slow times is a skill you can improve. The first step is to slow yourself down. Recognize that panic and avoidance is kind of like being in a trance.   You can slow things down and get more comfortable with being momentarily uncomfortable.

Successful practices manage ups and downs. They recognize that falling short happens. It’s part of the process of succeeding. You can learn to observe dispassionately the stress you feel about lack of clients. And being able to recognize that it’s natural for flow of incoming clients to vary, will take the sting out of the pressure that comes from feelings that arise when you’re not busy enough. If you visualize the uncomfortable feeling without being overwhelmed by it, you will take an important first step towards avoiding either overcompensating or engaging in constructive avoidance.

And if part of your stress about business development is caused by a sense that what you have tried to do isn’t working or that you don’t know what you should do to attract new clients, that’s where business consultants can be especially helpful.  It’s much easier for us to assess your situation dispassionately than it is for you to self diagnose.