Client Development

I Did it My Way

Some lawyers are killing it marketing their practice through social media. Some are not. When it comes to marketing, there are different strokes for different folks. This is important for young lawyers to know, because they sometimes look at what the partners are doing to generate business and cannot see themselves doing those things. They do not understand that there is more than one way to win a client.

In my early days, I was about as bad as you can get at public speaking. I tried to comprehensively address technical legal topics. I read my presentations. I bored the hell out of the audience.

I was that bad because I did not understand the purpose of my presentations. I thought that I was there to show how smart I was so that people would want to hire me. How crazy was that?

I eventually figured out that I was there to entertain the audience, appear approachable and provide just enough information so that the audience understood that they should call me. Eventually I improved, but it still was not the best way for me to win new clients. Contrast that with Anna, one of my former partners.

One day Anna and I both presented to an audience of potential clients. She came away with three new clients. I came away with none. There was nothing unusual about that. Anna always won new clients when she spoke. I rarely did, even after my speaking skills were vastly improved. Giving seminars worked for Anna but did not work for me.

I had another partner who I will call Tom. He took clients and referral sources out for dinner. He invited them to sports events. He organized nights out to drink and smoke cigars. He played poker with them. He took them to Los Vegas to do things that stayed in Vegas. He marketed to other lawyers for referral work. None of that worked for me.

So here is the thing. My client base was just as big as Anna’s and Tom’s. Often bigger. I could not do what they could do. But I did other things which were a better fit for me.

Everyone has to sell themselves, but there is no template for how to do it.

I knew an accountant who ate two lunches a day with different clients and then met other clients for dinner. He also organized ski trips. On the bus he would mix drinks. On one trip he served something called a ‘flaming sambuca’ and set his own mustache on fire. That was also not my style.

One of my associates was a mother with a young family. She invited other career moms to bring their children to McDonald’s on a weekend to hang out in the play area while the moms got to know each other. That is a far cry from flaming sambucas.

Another associate organized a book club for professional women. They had simple rules, including that the participants did not have to read the book. For the first meeting, the book was “Angry Housewives Eating Bons Bons,” and the menu was a selection of bons bons. Quite different from a weekend in Vegas.

We all have to sell. But we don’t all have to do it the same way.

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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