I recently had the opportunity to discuss shy lawyers—yes, there are shy lawyers!—with ABA Journal podcast moderator Stephanie Francis Ward and Dalhi Myers, who practices law with Gaffney Lewis & Edwards. Previously, we considered ways to overcome the stigma of business development, finding the right people, targeting fertile markets, noninvasive ways to meet targets, ethical incentives for referrals, marketing to other lawyers, online referrals and publications. Here we conclude our conversation:
ABA Journal: Dalhi, based on your practice, what do you think is the most successful thing you’ve done, in terms of business development?
Dalhi Myers: I would say that there are two things. I have always tried at every opportunity to just be sure that I’ve done an outstanding job, the best job that I could possibly do, and I’ve involved the right players and have not been afraid of asking people for help when I need help and giving them the credit for having done something that I couldn’t do otherwise. But also, that I have always, at appropriate times, gone back to my clients and said, “I know we got paid for that, but tell me where you were most dissatisfied.” Because it’s easy to find out what pleases your clients, but I think one of the keys has been that I have always said to my clients, “Tell me where the areas for improvement are.”
And I’ve acted on that. And my clients even tell others, “This is a lawyer who is not afraid to be told what you want her to do better the next time.” And certainly it doesn’t bother me because the easiest way to retain happy clients is to make sure that you are ever evaluating what they’ve told you you’ve done really, really right, but certainly, what they sometimes don’t tell you that you haven’t done in a way that they would have liked. And I think, for me, that has proven to have been one of the best strategies for success that I could have had. And I didn’t realize it when I started doing it, but it’s become one of the things that my clients tell everybody.
Dalhi does not mind you telling her, for example, that you never expected that that would have taken longer than ten hours, even though it was an outstanding job, that you would have expected that it would have taken maybe ten hours or less when, in fact, you got a bill that said seventeen hours or fifteen hours and that was the price. And even if you were happy to pay the bill, the fact that you could go back and say to Dalhi, “Okay, next time maybe we’d like to know in advance if you think this is going to take more than the average amount of time or maybe we should communicate to you what we think is the average amount of time.”
It is that I’m an open communicator and I always want to know what I’ve done that can be improved for the next round.
Larry Kohn: I have a comment on that, with regard to all of the clients that I’ve worked with over the years. Of course, Dalhi is right—it’s so important to do good legal work because you keep your clients, but frankly, and I hope I don’t sound too radical here, I know an awful lot of lawyers that aren’t necessarily the best lawyers but are great at bringing in business, so it’s a given that you should do good legal work.
Myers: That’s right.
Kohn: But the fact is you’re gonna do that. That’s not a part of your marketing effort, in my view. You’re going to do good legal work and that will bring you more business. I think the single most important thing for lawyers to do is to meet more good targets. By far and away the greatest weakness that we see, and I’ve been doing this now for 25 years, the greatest weakness that we see is that lawyers don’t know enough good targets.
If you were to assess how many targets do you really know who could give you business right now, who could refer business to you right now, if that number is five or ten, you’re way, way, way behind the curve, and you need mechanisms for meeting new people, whether those mechanisms are getting involved in organizations or meeting people through other people or my very favorite, which is public speaking and seminars. I think that the vast majority of lawyers way underestimate the number of people that they need to meet in order to make a significant dent in their new business development effort.
For more tips, check out ABA Journal’s “Shy Lawyer’s Guide to Becoming a Rainmaker” podcast.