Business Development

EP 68 – Elise Holtzman – Developing Your Law Firm from a Business Development Standpoint

Elise Holtzman is the President and Founder of The Lawyer’s Edge. Elise is an experienced attorney, certified professional coach and consultant. She is a former lawyer, no longer practicing law, and practiced in the area of commercial real estate transactions for two New York City law firms. When she was practicing law, she found that there were no coaches or very few female mentors in a similar situation. She got involved with professional coaching because it would combine everything that she loved that utilized many of her strongest disciplines she had developed during her professional career. Now, she helps lawyers and law firms become more successful in terms of bringing more revenue into the firms and running their firms like a true business. Elise does this by helping law firms develop their people into great business developers as well as great leaders. 

You can reach out to Elise by visiting her website at or send her an email at

Understanding the Difference Between Marketing and Business Development

The way that Elise and many others in the industry look at it is that marketing and business development go hand-in-hand with each other. So, what is the difference? Marketing is one to many. You are one person or one law firm and you are marketing to many people. It could be your website, you could be giving webinars, you could be writing articles, you could be posting on social media so that a lot of people are seeing you – they understand what it is that you do and who it is that you serve and they see that you are visible in the legal space and the business space. Business development is really more one-on-one. This is where you are developing relationships, preferably mutually beneficial relationships, with people so that they get to know you, you get to know them and understand what their needs are, and you can deliver value to them. Ultimately, when people have a sense of what you do and whom you serve and you have been delivering value to them and they know, like, and trust you, they are much more likely to hire you or to make a referral for you. People do business with those that they know, like, and trust. It does not necessarily come as easily through digital marketing – it certainly helps, and there are people who feel like they know you, but developing one-on-one relationships is critical. It will not change how you do things to understand the difference, but it is important to know that they do work hand-in-hand. The combination of the one-to-many and the one-to-one are critical to a law firm.

Investing in Yourself and the People on Your Team

One of the things that organizations like to say, and law firms are no different, is that “our people are our greatest asset”. If you are looking at your people and saying that they are your greatest asset, would you let your asset go to waste? If you had a physical asset such as a computer system in your office, would you not repair it, or update it and upgrade it, would you not keep it clean and tuned up? What happens is lawyers are expected to emerge from law school ‘fully formed’. It is true that your people are your biggest asset and there is a huge cost to having a revolving door. Where is the law firm investing in them? It is a two-way street and you are asking people to invest their time and energy and sweat equity in you (and yes you are paying them), but if you want to retain your talent, you have to invest in your people. If you want your law firm to be a growing, breathing entity that can keep doing better over time, you cannot let it stagnate. It is critical to educate your people on things other than technical legal skills, which also includes not only educating them, but also following up with support, whether it is individual coaching, group coaching, or getting them involved in certain initiatives and giving them the opportunity to get in front of clients and get in front of prospects so that they learn how to do this over time. You are investing in them over time and that sort of investment pays off. If you view it as a cost then you shouldn’t do it. It is a tremendous investment. 

Fixed Mindset Approach vs Growth Mindset Approach

As a law firm, let people know that it is a growth environment. There are two different approaches – a fixed mindset approach and a growth mindset approach. Some people take a fixed mindset approach to business development and you are either born with the ability to do it or you are not. What that means for everybody else is don’t bother trying because you will never be able to figure it out. However, if you have a growth mindset, there are many people who are going to get on board. It is really important for a firm to be able to set up that environment for people and understand that you may want to hire, or even promote, people who lock onto that culture and are willing to go with it. It does not mean that every person who is not willing to sign on has to be kicked out the door, it just means that some people are much better suited to be doing that work, cranking out the hours, and serving those that are out there doing the business. You will find that some people are going to be a good fit for you and that some are not. If you want a business development culture, or a diverse and inclusive culture, or a culture where leaders are made and not born, you are going to attract people over time that want the same thing. Over time, you fulfill your own desire to have a thriving, living, growing, breathing law firm.

EP 67 – Kirk Smith – How Lawyers Can Add Value and Enhance Experiences for Clients That Have Been Taken Advantage Of

Kirk Smith is a Managing Partner at Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, LLP. He has been practicing law for over 21 years and was also a former stock broker. Kirk’s firm largely represents consumers against brokerage firms or investment advisors and they look to help consumers that may have been taken advantage of either in their portfolio or retirement savings. Often what went wrong inside a person’s portfolio could be due to the broker or brokerage firm’s negligence and Kirk looks to help those consumers and file cases on their behalf in what is called finra arbitration. If you are interested in getting in contact with Kirk, visit his website at or you can call his office at 800-259-9010. 

Red Flags That You Can Look For When Speaking to Your Clients

The first thing a lawyer could look for or field a question on is if there is a huge loss (mostly for those in retirement or nearing retirement). It will often be brought up to the lawyer because they are seen as such confidants and in a few other situations, you may just have access to that information. In many instances, the client trusting the attorney will broach the subject and that is how a lot of their business comes in. If you are not as common with their finances, you can simply ask them how things are going. Something as simple as that and you would be surprised about what it would yield – you will be surprised at what people open up and tell you. 

If that lawyer has a personal financial advisor that they trust, they can always bounce some ideas off of them or seek out an attorney. If you don’t know yourself, speaking with someone who does is very helpful. Other easy things to uncover aside from concentration are the use of margin or a credit line attached to the portfolio which can really decimate the account. Margin is the means by which you can borrow money from the firm to go and buy more bonds or stocks or other products. It certainly should not be used by anyone that is close to retiring or in retirement, only by those that know what they are doing. There are also lines of credit that are collateralized against the account. So other obvious ones are the use of margin and the use of credit lines collateralized to securities – just unusual products, if it is not a stock, bond, or mutual fund then people should not be in it. People do not understand what is going on because they were not given the full disclosure but they may have signed off on something. 

Why Are the Elderly Targeted and More Susceptible?

Kirk tries not to advise clients too much on who to use. As a rule, the larger firms have smart people that work there and trustworthy people, but there are always going to be bad apples wherever you go. He tries not to give too much direction to any one brokerage firm after they are done with his firm. Older people tend to be the ones that are targeted or more susceptible because they are more trustworthy of a person in an apparent power of authority or knowledge, but they also have larger amounts of money after working a lifetime. As far as making the claim goes, they should be treated differently in a more conservative fashion. Obviously fraud is looked upon a little more aggressively and they will view the brokerage firm in a different light. Either way, it is recoverable but you might get a larger reward or potentially get some costs / interests. It is still actionable – malpractice is malpractice and negligence is negligence. People who have suffered shouldnt bear the financial loss for the mistake, the mistake should be borne by the professional. A lot of times, older adults do not want to discuss their finances with their children, especially if they have several and there may be some issues there. You would be surprised.

Misrepresented Products and Topics to Stay Away From

He has spoken at a few different associations and some younger attorneys will attend classes for CLE and he will speak there about different topics and products to keep an eye out for and the process for how to present a case as well. People were investing or recommended to invest in Master Limited Partnerships or MLP which is tied to oil and gas and always recommended as a safe and secure product (as an alternative to a fixed income like a bond fund), but in reality it can fluctuate greatly. The price of oil does have a negative effect on it and many people were invested in these and suffered huge losses. Another thing are REIT’s which are real estate investment trusts. These are almost a mutual fund composed of real estate and people get stuck in them, especially these days. A lot of things are misrepresented to people or they are sold risky products. Each person is different and each situation is different. You can certainly expect to get more money back than if you did nothing. But there are so many different variables – what was said, if there are any emails, whether you are or were a blue collar worker, a professional, or a widow, and what type of concentration it was. They would not be doing it if they were not getting good returns for the clients, but it is hard to quantify. 

Your clients look up to you regardless of what service you are performing and when they need help, they want to turn to someone that they can trust even if it is a little outside of what that person does.

EP 66 – Peter Walts – Building Business Development Through IP and Value Proposition

Peter Walts is the Founder and CEO of Centropy Group as well as the COO of Employment Law Alliance, otherwise known as ELA. Peter is focused on creating new value and client momentum through business strategy, alliances, licensings and transactions. He has been in this business for about 20 years now and has enjoyed helping companies look at building alliances and building business development within their firms. Has been helping law firms specifically for about 7 years primarily through ELA. Peter also hosts a few different podcasts but mainly focuses on Employment Matters. 

You can learn more about Peter at and you can learn more about Employment Law Alliance at You can find his podcast ‘Employment Matters’ at and connect with him via LinkedIn at

Leveraging Intellectual Property Internally

They call it one of the business development assets,  not only the logo, the trademark and those things, but it’s the way the firm is perceived in the market and the individual expertise of the subject matter experts within the firm. When you break it out and look at how firm’s can leverage their intellectual property it is really the things that they are doing one-to-one with a client and how they can package that in a way that it is now creating best practices or experiences that other firms can benefit from. The way that you help someone may be different than the way that someone else helps them. Look at your firm and really take inventory of what the practice areas are that you have strength in, what relationships that you have strength in – not only existing customers, but market segments, industry segments – and how you can take your message with that subject matter expertise out into the marketplace and use it to help others, even other law firms. Your clients are looking for the best advice that they can get and the best relationships that they can get so wherever you can help them by leveraging not only what you know but who you know is going to help them immeasurably and they will stick with you forever. 

Look at intellectual property as an intangible – as the expertise of the firm, as the reputation of the firm, as the good works of the firm – and then move through the organization. You should be mining talent right from the beginning as a law firm and look at the intellectual property that the younger lawyers can bring to the table when looking at social media or reaching out or building a parallel network within the firm or with another group of young lawyers across the country or across the globe. Do this in a way that is inclusive and that clients see them as a generous provider of content and not as a competitor to all of the other law firms in that space. Look for opportunities to team with other colleagues in your practice area from other firms or to find other firms outside of your geographic area that you can partner with that will really make your message stronger to the clients that you have and make you more attractive to clients that you want to bring in.

Assessing Your Unique Value Proposition

It is important to identify what your unique proposition is. We all have at the baseline that we are lawyers and we can all assume that we are good lawyers and that we have existing clients. We all accomplish those things in different ways and may be handling the same type of legal issues in a unique manner. Ask yourself what industries do you have particular expertise in and how can you help guide that industry? If you have one client in an area, you have expertise in that area. There are opportunities for you to look as a firm for marketing. Don’t think of the other law firms in your market as competitors, think of them as service providers who are all providing unique value propositions or unique intellectual property to help clients and clients will choose where they want to work. Let’s all grow up and work together because we need each other. That is the strength of networks and alliances and the formulas of those is how you put together what is usually an unlikely combination.

Benefits of Strategic Alliances for Law Firms

There is uniqueness in being an independent firm and building an alliance if you get that opportunity to continue in your own practice and fill in those areas where someone else may have strength. All parties in an alliance see value in a similar way – start small and one of the best things is that you just have to work on something together. The advantages in alliances over acquisitions is that they are quick to form. You don’t have to have a lot of equity in it, they’re flexible, you can decide as a group what works,and  they don’t take much cash or drain a lot of resources. Try something that allows you to align around a certain practice area. Today, some of our vendor sources may be in a lot of trouble so now is a good time to start thinking how do we as an industry go out and start building alliances so that if someone is struggling and they are critical to the supply chain we have a way to help them. You can create vertical alliances or you can create alliances around technology and those are things that make alliances beneficial and there really isn’t a restriction on where you can have them. 

Think about some of the other firms that you have strong relationships with that are not in your market and some other firms that have expertise like you do in another industry segment and what other people in your industry you know that you can partner with where you don’t compete directly. That is the making of the beginning of an alliance. Firms that have developed and documented their intellectual property may be better suited to be a part of these strategic alliances. Think about what you have to offer and what they have to offer and what you can bring together. Marketers need to be looking to other marketers for best practice. They need to be listening to podcasts to learn how they can build on the knowledge of others. The first thing to do is take an inventory of what the firm has to offer and go down to the individual person. Find out where all of the intellectual property or firm assets are across the skillsets, the interest, the industry expertise, the relationships and the charitable contributions and start to knit those together with who you can partner with.

EP 65 – Terri Pepper Gavulic – Benefits to Being in a Law Firm Networking Group to Obtain Referrals and Expert Opinions

Terri Pepper Gavulic is the Chief Business Officer or TerraLex. TerraLex started as a referral network nearly 30 years ago and now, they are a membership network by invitation only. Her company  has made a conscious effort to morph from being solely a referral network to having a platform for their members to collaborate which gives them the opportunity to have an even larger  global footprint.

How Does the Membership and Vetting Process Work?

Within TerraLex, members can go and find others who may be members elsewhere, but many of them also know each other because of all of the ways that they meet throughout the year. Members will inquire about who is the leading person in a specific area and then they will move forward from there to help their clients. The reason it is palatable to the client community is because TerraLex  is invitation only and they also  go through a pretty rigid vetting process which is then followed by on-going quality control assurances, so it saves their clients a step so they don’t have to go through that vetting process themselves. 

TerraLex members have exclusivity in the jurisdiction that is their ‘territory’ which means that they do not have a lot of openings. When an opening becomes available, they will do the research, talk to their members, talk to their clients and find out who the leading firms are in that jurisdiction. Other times they will approach them and they will have conversations with them and then talk to clients and other members. If they still cannot assure the quality by looking at rankings and other things like that, they might give them a try on some matters by having someone refer work to them and seeing the quality there. Once they are sure that they are the right quality and the right fit and right practice-mix, they are invited into membership. TerraLex works very closely with their members and Regional Vice Chairs (board members) conduct a review every 2 years of each member to assure that there are no issues and that they are maintaining the kind of quality that they want. They have a pretty sophisticated team on board that also works hand-in-hand with the clients.

Important Elements of Networking to TerraLex Members

With the way that the network started, referrals are certainly the heart and soul of it, but their members also collaborate and work together on projects and also have a courtesy advice policy. Members also share marketing and business development ideas with each other. The company’s responsibility, as they view it, is to help members understand how to market their firms by leveraging TerraLex. They provide council and facilitate members sharing and collaborating on ideas with each other. 

TerraLex has recently taken all of their meetings online and have found that members who are working remotely seem to have more time to join in on those endeavors. They are also seeing a lot more people in the member-firm join in on different projects. While there are some elements of meetings that are really important to their members, the ability to network with other members and have  focused discussions around client development and global connections has still remained. They have been able to add other elements that they might not have been previously able to if they were not in a virtual environment such as social activities and keynote speakers. Members are truly close-knit and they like each other. Throughout the invitation and vetting process, they are very careful to bring in other members that fit in with the current members so that when they get together there is a lot of education, there is a lot of business conducted, but there is also a lot of just plain connecting socially and enjoying each other’s company that will build those trusting relationships that lead to people working together.

Ways for New Lawyers to Get Involved in Referral Groups

One thing for new lawyers to learn in the beginning is that you can’t be everything to everybody. You need to figure out how you are going to position yourself and then find some sort of interest group. If Terri were a young lawyer starting out, equally to determining what her practice area would be, she would immediately try to figure out what industry she wants to get more in depth with. Build a best friend’s network, but there needs to be a commonality of what you want to do. You have to, at some point, pick one interest to market yourself and do it well but devote all of your limited time, your limited dollars, and limited efforts in one direction and that seems to pay more benefits to a young lawyer trying to start their career than trying to scatter themselves.

EP 64 – Doug Ott – Getting to Know Your Contacts on a Personal Level to Improve Business Development

Doug Ott is the Founder of Doug Ott Consulting, LLC. Doug has been coaching and mentoring lawyers and accountants for the past 15 years and has been in business development for his entire career, over 30 years. He opened his own consulting practice about 4 years ago. Doug realized that there was a huge need for telling lawyers how not to sell, but how to connect with their prospective and existing clients to help them grow their business. His company, Doug Ott Consulting, works with lawyers all over the US including  small, medium, and large firms. 

If you would like to get in contact with Doug, you can check out his website at or connect with him on LinkedIn ( You can also call him on his direct line at 415-350-9423. Doug is happy to offer a free 30min consultation for any quick question you may have.

Organizing Your Contacts List and Tracking Development of Relationships

Our current times are new territory for all of us and we have the opportunity to take advantage of the extra time that we have. It is a time to get better organized and become more focused. Even tactical business development efforts have been changed because of the situation. Doug is telling his lawyers to reach out to their contacts and just check in with them on a personal level and not worry about the business. Take this opportunity to reach out to contacts (prospective clients, existing clients, internal colleagues, referral sources) – you just need to be out there reaching out to people. 

Doug just released a 4-week challenge. The rules to his challenge are to reach out to 1 contact every day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks. The stipulation is that the contact has to be someone that you have not talked to in at least the last 4 weeks. The idea behind this challenge is to see who you have not talked to in a while and what relationships are important out there that you could rekindle. Don’t call your contacts and talk business, but  just reach out and ask how they are doing. You can ask how they are coping with COVID and the lockdown situation. This might lead into a conversation for you to learn more about that person on a more personal level. Take this time to really change the way that you are reaching out to people. Leave it on a personal level to begin with and if that conversation then migrates into a business conversation, great, and if it doesn’t, then that is okay too. 

When we get out of lockdown, the more challenging thing will be just reaching out to people and seeing how people are doing because the conversation starter may be a little more difficult. If you start to learn more about that person on a personal level and make those mental notes, then you can check in on that person in a month or 3 months and ask them about those things. Whatever you learn about your contacts on a personal level now can help you so much down the road. It is going to pay off when you are trying to figure out ways to stay in touch with those people and just check in with them.

Staying Top of Mind in Business Development

What are you doing to stay top of mind? Doug will usually task his clients to not only know that their contacts have a spouse and 2 kids, but to know the names of their kids and how old they are as well as the name of their spouse. Making your conversations more personal can make a huge difference in how you differentiate yourself from your competition. People want to work with those that they like and appreciate. Doug recommends using a relationship tracker and he created his own that is an Excel spreadsheet. It segregates clients into different buckets such as corporate clients, internal colleagues, referral sources, alumni network, and others. There is also a timestamp so you can timestamp everytime that you reach out to this person so that you can track the cadence of how often you reach out and also record the notes. Keep it simple and make sure that it is something you can actually use easily. You also need to be patient in what you learn about someone today might not pay off until a year or two down the road. Gifting can be great and if you can do it at a time that is not typical, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, it will stand out even more. Just do something different. 

If you would like to receive a copy of the relationship tracker Doug mentions above, send him an email at

Collaborating with Internal and External Colleagues

Collaboration is critical. If you work with a professional services firm, whether it is accounting or legal, the internal relationships are paramount to be successful in that firm. Usually the common thread is that the really successful partners have an incredible network internally within their own firm. Obviously the larger the firm, the more important it is because there are easier allies. Pick up the phone and call someone. Make a list of all the important internal colleagues that you need to maintain a relationship with and put that list in your relationship tracker. It is still a very important process to be staying in front of your colleagues during this time as well. It is proactive thinking and thinking about who else could you be really strategically targeting within your own firm who could help you grow one of your larger clients. You will also just develop great friendships. This is another opportunity to do that because this is a personal environment. Right now is really the time to open up and reach out to others to learn more about their practice and see how you can help eachother out. This is a time to connect with a mix of people in your network. Keep plugging away and keep planting those seeds and making the effort because the conversations you have today may really pay off in the next year or two.

EP 62 – Jason Levin – Getting Started with a Business Development Plan to Raise Your Profile

Jason Levin is the Founder and Owner of ReadySetLaunch. Jason implements a specific set of tools and approaches that lawyers should be using for law firm business development. ReadySetLaunch  has been around for nearly 9 years as a full-service coaching and training company for attorneys doing business development for councils, partners, associates helping them create a road map and execute it so that they can succeed within their firms and within their practices. If you are interested in contacting Jason, please visit his website at or email him directly at

Understanding Discipline and Focus in SMART Goals

When Jason thinks about focus, he thinks of having a target market of who you are planning to serve. You first need to understand within a focus perspective who is the end buyer or person that will sign off to allow you to be able to practice. He defines discipline as coming up with a set of tools and tactics so that you can get closer and closer in front of the people that will be in a position to buy your services. Both discipline and focus go into a business development plan. There are several different versions of this, but essentially there are components. The 1st piece is listing who your current relationships are. In terms of relationships, it can be as small as who is in your practice or who is in your office and then your own personal relationships such as law school classmates, undergrad classmates, friends and family, etc. The 2nd piece is determining the types of people that you want to be working with. The 3rd piece is then based on current relationships and targets and evaluating some ways that you can get in front of those people whether it is via webinars, conferences, or newsletters. It is crucial to know the types of things that these people are reading and where they are congregating. This will  help the attorney identify different areas that exist for them. 

Using SMART goals allows you to then bring that into your own calendar. If you don’t have SMART goals in your business development plan, you are not executing on your business development plan. The biggest issue attorneys run into is that they will write the business development plan and then it will go on a shelf, when in reality it is a living document. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results Oriented, and Time Sensitive. Jason is a 90-day person, so he wants to set something so specific that you can achieve it in 90 days. You can have SMART goals among relationships, among conferences, among thought leadership and make sure that it is specific enough so that you are not thinking about business development, but rather what you may have promised yourself that week. 

It is all about time and calendar blocking. You need to own the calendar block and be very, very specific about it. Jason refers to MIT as the Most Important Task. Attorneys can have an MIT for business development and it does not have to take that long. He also looks at the Pomodoro Technique which is Italian for tomato timer. Francesco Cirillo came up with a technique where he put a tomato timer on his desk and took away all distractions that he might have. He took 25 minutes to read and when the timer went off, he took a 5 minute break. He started to think of his work in terms of pomodoros, so for business development, instead of a 25 minute pomodoro, you could do a 12 minute or a 6 minute where you come up with a discrete task and put everything else away to complete that so that you can get closer to completing your SMART goals. Some attorneys have clearly busy times and Jason is always working with them to see what discrete, very specific things that they can do even during those extremely busy times. Busyness is okay and can actually be a business development opportunity with the people that you are already working with.

Common Traps that Lawyers Fall Into Within Business Development

Some attorneys fall into loving LinkedIn so much that they will connect with everybody and then think that they have a problem with LinkedIn. They don’t have a LinkedIn problem, they have a content problem because they do not have anything to share on their personal page. You need to generate thought leadership and then use LinkedIn and other social tools as a sharing mechanism. Another thing that lawyers fall into is that they don’t understand their market all the time, so they need to be going to the right conferences, reading the right trade publications, understanding what their clients’ issues are and doing the right types of research to determine a solution. Attorneys struggle with the asking of questions. Try asking a question and then answering the question that your client asks you and then continue the conversation. Just ask a question and then see where things go. You must be present and in the moment and use your listening skills as a form of having the right discipline.

Pro Bono as a Part of the Business Development Plan

Something to start thinking about are the kinds of things that your clients are doing in the community and how you could help with what they are doing. This is something that directly aligns because if your clients care about it, then you care about it. Whatever your cause is, there is an opportunity within your community to find non-profits that are looking for board members. You, as an attorney, bring an incredible skill set and you start to meet groups of people that you normally would not meet that share your same interests and values. The greatest way to get to know someone is to work with them to determine how you interact with them and then they will begin to trust you. Jason works with attorneys to go after pro bono opportunities that align with their specific values. When you get outside of the law firm setting and into board meetings, you see how other types of people communicate and what their needs are. When an attorney gets a board seat, it is an opportunity for them to add value and the non-profit appreciates it and it raises awareness of who you are and your practice group / your firm. Just get started. It is so easy to get into your own head and only hear all of the different reasons why you should not reach out. Get started and it will be amazing what you will be able to do by just having a weekly approach to raising your profile.

EP 60 – Alycia Sutor – Selling as an Act of Service to Become Authentic in Your Business Development

Alycia Sutor is the Managing Director at GrowthPlay and leads the Professional Services Team. She has more than 20 years of experience helping lawyers and executives accelerate their sales performance and revenue growth. Alycia began in this industry when she discovered the opportunity to help lawyers rethink how they bring themselves into being so that the world can rethink the value that lawyers bring to the world. Please reach out to Alycia at

Understanding Sales as a Service and the Meaning Behind It

One thing that Alycia became enamored by very early on was the idea of what would happen if the idea or notion of selling was turned on its head and instead was thought about as an act of service, especially for people who don’t choose to go into sales as their primary career or profession. Lawyers are doer sellers which means that they do the work and then someday figure out that to continue elevating their career they need to eventually sell that work as well. Very few lawyers are inclined to think about selling as something that feels comfortable to them. So, what would it look like to create a disciplined approach to selling as an act of service? Extending the timeframe of how and who the services are being provided for. It tends to feel much more authentic and helpful.

It begins by helping people to embrace the mindset because if you are going to sell or develop a business as an act of service, there are two fundamental skills. One is how we build authentic relationships with someone and that happens long before someone identifies as a potential prospect. How do you create a relationship that feels genuine to the other person based not on what is authentic or natural for you, but also what makes sense for the person that you are trying to connect with? It is a frame of mind of how you think about how you are bringing yourself into being with other people from the beginning, but also fundamental about how you are able and willing to solve problems that other people find value in being solved. The other person has to define what the most important problems or highest issues are that someone can help them with at the moment. All of these things start way before someone picks up the phone and it impacts every interaction that you have with people – whether it be a phone call, waiting in line with somebody, showing up at a networking event, how you answer an email, how you write the proposal, etc. These things ultimately leave a mark that starts to create the kind of context and evidence that you are somebody who others want to work with, not because they have to but because they want to.

How to Keep Your Relationships with Clients and Prospects Open

One thing Alycia is constantly advocating for lawyers to improve upon is their ability to prepare for important conversations, not just the technical ones or the ones that happen in the context of client meetings, but to prepare for important relationship-building conversations. She uses the Core Four as preparation as a framework to help people get into the right mindset. One –Always understand what your objective is. What is it that you are trying to do or accomplish in the course of the conversation that will make the other person leave thinking that was a good use of their time? Have a clear sense of what is going to be useful as an outcome to the person you are meeting with. Two –  If you are prepared, you can identify the kinds of questions that you might need to ask somebody else to figure out what they need the most. So, how are you going to learn more about their business, their issues, their problems, their challenges, the kinds of things they are most interested in? Your job is to be helpful in any matter, shape, or form. Three –  Something critical to be helping lawyers be more thoughtful is for them to think about what kind of key messages or impressions they are trying to leave behind. What do you want people to walk away saying or believing about you? Four – What are the definitive next steps or outcomes of a conversation that will continue to propel further relationship building or interactions? You might have an introduction to extend that gives you a reason to follow up or you might have an offer to share some insight, an article, a checklist, a template, some presentation materials. When you leave a conversation with this exit, it helps you identify what the next step is and what that other person feels is also useful or valuable. Your job is in part to stay connected and stay in the relationship in a way that is useful or valuable to the other person. If you give up too early, you are often cutting yourselves from opportunities.

If you have done your homework upfront by asking the great questions about what outcome your client or your prospect is seeking to get and how will they measure or know that has value, that begins to put your client in the headspace of what is going to be most important, but it also gives you information about what drives value for the client. Think about the 3 “A’s” to overcome an objection and the “A’s” mean that you would want to acknowledge the fact that you just heard your client or prospect indicate something important to them, ask further questions to help you understand what seems to be out of alignment for them, and advance particular possible alternative solutions.

The Levels of Working with Professionals to Develop Business Plans

There are three levels or ways in which Alycia and her team work with clients to develop business plans. One is working with individual lawyers to help them build business development skills or muscle and this is often done in coaching programs. In the coaching programs, they help lawyers build a business development roadmap for the next 6 to 12 months depending on how far ahead it may be. There is also a transition process in that coaching experience where they equip lawyers with tools, templates, and a plan and then help them transition support over to internal team members than can help keep that lawyer supported moving forward. The second level works with teams of lawyers helping them to get aligned and collaborate in a way that helps create experiences where people want to work with them. There is a clear documentation process and they use what is called a “playbook” which helps people on the team be clear on who is doing what and how each person plays specific roles and has contributions. They use this as an aligning tool to help team members understand what needs to happen and keep the momentum moving forward. The third and final level is at the leadership level which helps leaders of firms create growth maps that are living, breathing documents that allow leaders to figure out where they see the best growth opportunities and then how to align the people, process, and system to support the opportunity to create more opportunities.

The idea of selling or selling themselves feels inauthentic to lawyers, so how do you out-behave the competition by adhering to the Platinum Rule (do unto others as they want to be done unto)? It is not about what people think about you when they are with you, it is about how you make them feel about themselves when you are with them. If we can be thoughtful, other-centered, and generous people and do that with some discipline and intentionality, then business development has a way of being very authentic and that is how it becomes an act of service.

EP 58 – Mary Balistreri – How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results

Mary Balistreri is the Business Development and Leadership Coach at Quarles and Brady. She coaches attorneys both in groups and individually to develop action plans and strategies to in turn develop business. Mary focuses on discovering tactics to help individuals grow to their full potential. She is also certified in Conversational Intelligence. If you are interested in getting in contact with Mary, you can reach out via LinkedIn –

The Importance of Trust in Conversations and Relationships

Trust does not just happen automatically. Not only is it important to check in with the mindset of the person you may be meeting with, but it is also important to check your own mindset before entering into that conversation. If you receive bad news before walking into a meeting with someone else, it may cause you to be closed off or resistant because your mind is thinking about something else. That will read to the person that you are talking to and could ultimately have a huge impact on what they hear from you. Trust cannot be rushed as you come into a situation. Find ways to empty your mind of all the things going on in there before you get into a difficult conversation or have to lead your team. We do not take time for ourselves to do this because we are often running from one thing to the next. Stop yourself to fix your mindset to be open when you go into each meeting. This is very important to business development just as it is important to leadership and really in any situation interacting with somebody.

The majority of things are all about trust. It is also easy to lose trust, especially in a working environment. Not everybody is going to be trustworthy. Trust is built based on actions so saying what you are going to do and then doing what you said that you were going to do are very important. Trust is also a basis for so many relationships. In the legal world, you want to be the trusted advisor for your clients and be the person that cares about them and gives them the insights that they need, but you also have to be transparent and notify them if things are not going well.

Understanding Communication Styles and the 80-20 Rule

There is a communications style test, similar to Meyers-Briggs but it does not have as many things going into a specific personality trait, instead, it is a communication style and uses the ISFT. There are 4 communication styles – Intuiter which is someone who is all about ideas; Sensor describes someone who is all about results and is very fast-moving and likes to communicate in bullet points; Feelers are those who are all about relationships, and; Thinker is someone who is all about the process. What do you need to do to have a conversation with someone that might not be in the same category as you might be? It is still a responsibility of leaders to have high-level conversations with their team to make their team want to produce. Spend some time asking questions and gain an understanding of who you are talking with when you are having the conversation so that you can adjust your style to that person as well. This is a soft skill that attorneys need to learn because they need to work with clients and develop those relationships with their clients.

People want to be listened to. This goes back to the principle of the 80-20 rule which is in a conversation, you should only be speaking 20% of the time and letting the other person (client, prospect, or whomever) speak the other 80%. The way that you do this is by asking questions and then listening for their answers. You may ask an open-ended question and get an answer from the client that sounds like a need – ask an additional question for clarity and that breath of what you discover is so much broader and larger and can lead to a stronger relationship with the client. At the end of the day, that is what drives business, but it is also what drives us in our lives to develop relationships with people.

Assumptions and Judgement vs Discovering Intent

When your mind is in that state when you are not trusting, everything that the other person says will be heard with that filter applied to it. Use language that is less accusatory and more open. Open up the other person by allowing them to talk about what the reality was for them. So often, we make judgments in our minds about what the reality is, and when we ask someone and wait for them to talk about it, we find out that wasn’t it at all. We put things onto ourselves and give things more meaning than they may have.

People cannot read intent, so there could be all kinds of different intent on the side of the person who’s trust was lost. If you assume intent, that is where the mistake might be. Sit down and ask the person what was going on and hear from their plan and allow them to offset what the intent was. Go in first without any assumptions or putting people in different categories. Have a conversation rather than giving a questionnaire. Ask a couple of questions to each individual to get a sense of their engagement and commitment, their likes and dislikes, and what their motivation is. Everybody has the capability to improve themselves.

EP 57 – Harlan Schillinger – The Most Common Gap Law Firms Need to Address to Increase Their Bottom Line Quickly

Harlan Schillinger is widely recognized as the “Grandfather of Legal Advertising”. He invented television advertising in the legal community when no one else was doing it. He began his career in television work in 1975 and began creating a series of television commercials for the legal category in 1977. If you are interested in speaking with Harlan or learning more about him, please visit his website and reach out at

Determining What Others Are Not Doing and Doing That

When you are advertising, you are filling a gap and you get what you ask for in that. Once you figure out what other people are not doing, you need to do that. Harlan learned early on that it is always more important to listen to others than to talk when you are in a conversation. His wife tells him every day to be interested, not interesting. You could be the sheep in advertising and follow what everybody else is doing, but that does not set you apart from anyone else. One of the biggest holes in a law firm’s bucket is intake and conversion. It is filling in on what other people are not doing. If others are not following up on leads, or not tracking leads, or not tracking their business’ metrics, the solution is to do that and you will see the outcome when you do things like that. What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know. 

The single issue that lawyers point out is that they count what they have, not what they do not have. Smart operators recognize that it is a business – it has to be run like a business and you have to implement very strong business tactics such as accountability and metrics. Do not look to another lawyer to copy, but instead look at what a successful business is doing. Lawyers often see what is in front of them, but they do not see what they do not see. Take a look at the calls you are getting and not the case you are writing. You can measure the cases, but if you do not have any initial calls, what are you measuring? To increase business, you have to figure out what you are not doing and that takes a lot of humbleness. Step back and look at what you do not see, that is where you will make the gains.

Strategizing Your Marketing and Understanding the Business

Talk to the public the same way that you would talk to a jury. You cannot fool a jury – you have to be real and you have to be credible. You talk to the public like you are talking to a jury because you are telling a story. You always have to be who you are and that is the backbone of Harlan’s strategy as well as the strategy that he employs on the people that he works with. It’s what makes sense. If you look at television commercials that are out there and all of the advertising, they all say “we will do this for you” or “we will get you that”. The lawyers that he works with separate themselves.

The biggest thing that lawyers are not doing in understanding and running their businesses are not looking at the metrics. The metrics do not lie. You have to follow the metrics and put those steps in place. You cannot run your practice on your gut, and you cannot run it with just folders and sticky notes. It is all about communication and building relationships. You need to be tech-oriented and you need to have the tools to be able to implement all of those things. Most law firms do not make it easy for people to do business with them. A simple question that you could ask during intake is, “What is the best way for me to communicate with you?” Could you imagine how much smoother things would go in the future if you discussed forms of communication and what works best for others?

It all comes down to what your hunger is and what you drive behind everything is. The culture in your firm and marketing is what will separate you. People are going to come to you not because they think they got a good settlement, but because of how you made them feel. Make your clients feel like a million dollars – that is how you build a business. Just because you are making a lot of money does not mean that you are doing all of it right. You fill a void and that is how you gain and provide business. Surround yourself with smart people and get your business metrics in place.

Operating Your Business Like a Sports Franchise

Begin operating your business like you would a sports franchise. Everybody on that team has a job. You draft players to either throw or catch the ball. If you do not have a team set up with everybody in place and the best players on the team, then you have a real challenge of winning a championship. Drafting the right players, having everyone know what their job is, and having a process in place is what is going to win a super bowl or any kind of championship or winning the business of your dreams. If you want the best practice or the best team, you better surround yourself with the best players.

Managing all of this is very difficult and understanding it is difficult. Surround yourself with people who are much better and much smarter than you are. The entrepreneurs of the world are ideas people, but they had to have other people to help them implement those ideas. Watching Michael Jordan in The Last Dance, they never won a championship until they changed their philosophy. They began to draft players that could work well with Michael. Michael orchestrated the team and everybody’s level for the team. They took the ball out of Michael’s hands and put motivation in his hands and he motivated everyone to step up and that is how they won 4 championships in a row. You cannot have just one person, it has to be a team effort.

EP 56 – Tim Corcoran – Learning to Adapt and Thrive as a Law Firm in the Ever-Changing Market

Tim Corcoran is a Legal Management Consultant with offices in New York, Charlottesville, and Sydney as a global client base. He is a keynote speaker, author, as well as a legal commentator and has been in the industry for the past 2 decades as a corporate executive. The things that he talks about and where he guides his clients is just practical advice – what he learned in how to run a business and what they may not have been trained to do when in law school. It is really about helping legal leaders use their intellect and their lawyer abilities to be more effective leaders and managers of their business, which is essentially what his consulting practice is based on. Please reach out to Tim by visiting his website at or by following him on Twitter @tcorcoran

Prioritizing Your Next Steps in Navigating the Pandemic and Beyond

Now is a perfect opportunity for law firms, and all businesses, to be taking a look at their operations and determine which of their programs, investments, capital expenditures, tools and technologies, and suppliers may need to be dialed back as well as looking to see what resources and maybe even people may not be as mission-critical in the short-term. Many businesses are being faced with several tough decisions to make right now and they are all happening at once. Tim has helped clients come up with a decision framework to do this triage. He looks at the term triage as how medical professionals do an assignment of urgency when they have someone that is present with symptoms and they cannot treat everyone and do everything all at once, so really they are trying to prioritize what is most important first. A short-term challenge facing many law firm leaders is that there is not a lot of planning done in advance for how to deal with this. Most businesses did not even have a plan that would accommodate the scale of this disruption.

Law firm leaders need to triage and prioritize what their next step is going to be. It is a 3-stage process that several law firms are currently facing. There was a Canadian minister that described their government here as dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic as a plane struggling in an intense storm. The first stage is landing the plane on the ground safely to ensure that everyone is safe and alive. The second stage is securing the plane on the ground and making sure that it will be safe to ride out the storm there. The third and final stage is preparing to take-off again as the climate allows for proceeding. The first thing that law firms need to look at doing is securing their law firms to ensure that they will be in business come the following day. Their first steps in doing so are to make sure that you have enough cash on hadn’t to make payroll, think about if you have enough laptops and desktops available to disperse to people so that they can work from home, if not, then you need to make adjustments to secure device policies, zoom policies, and conference call capabilities so that employees can use firm services to login and access the critical materials that they need.

Embracing Opportunities and Collaborating and Communicating More Effectively

We as a society, but especially as law firms, have been ignoring opportunities to embrace a flexible workforce. There are ignored opportunities when a valuable employee moves across the country for many different reasons and most employers just say goodbye. Why is that the case though if they can work remotely and be just as effective? Now is a great opportunity to say that we do not need a model where everyone is in a shiny building downtown, but rather to embrace a model where you can be everywhere. This gives a greater competitive advantage and a lower cost space which will in turn improve profitability. Take this time to put things into perspective. It is not about adapt or die, although some will not adapt and some will die, it is really about adapting and thriving. The market has changed, and is always changing, so how do you as a law firm or a leader in the legal community take advantage of what the market is telling you very loudly and very clearly?

Law firms structurally are not built very well for collaboration, even when everyone works in the same office or the same set of offices. This market change may provide a recognition to use the tools and processes that allow you to collaborate even when you cannot be right across the desk from one another. The missing link is if people are being effective in using these tools. With time, we can realize that there is a way to collaborate with others when you are not in the same room and if we take that lesson back, we may reform the law firm footprint so that now we may collaborate and communicate far more effectively.

Utilizing Technologies as a Way to Deliver New Solutions

The market has been fairly loud in asking lawyers and law firms to adapt to a changing world- whether a consumer or large corporate clients. The market has also said that there is a learning curve and that legal professionals should be more efficient at delivering service at a higher quality and lower cost than they were 5 years ago. While billable hours still exist, the market is saying that they no longer need lawyers’ permission to access legal services from alternate sources. Big law firms are now realizing that some of their work is being seeded to smaller law firms and all law firms are now seeing some of their work being brought in-house or to alternate suppliers where it is a lower cost of delivery. Some companies are delivering services to organizations that have legal needs and they are delivering them more effectively, at a higher quality and lower price, and with higher throughput. Law firms are now realizing that all of these things they said they cannot change and changing, and they don’t have a voice in it. Courts are accepting e-signatures, people are providing services electronically, taking appearances by video, and they are starting to see the same sort of thing in transactions. The things that used to have to be on paper are now submitted electronically.

Much of the market has mischaracterized the benefits of the use of technology to legal services. Buyers are more ahead of the game than the sellers. We need to first look at technology not as the solution, but as a way to deliver that solution more effectively and efficiently. Lawyers need better processes. It is not uncommon to look at a law firm and see how different lawyers have fundamentally different approaches to handling the same task, whether that be a legal task or an administrative task. The better course of action is to recognize that you have inefficient processes and that inefficiency sends a message to your clients and the clients are saying that the law firm’s inefficiency costs them more money. It is time to engage in process improvement and no one way has to win, there may need to be some variations. Process mapping, process improvement, and project management are not about commoditizing the law, they are about saying how to unlock the smarts that lawyers have if they have done these things before thousands of times. That approach will pave the way for technology we think will be necessary and helpful to deliver that. Technology comes after the business mapping and then the technology is one of the ways to deliver those services. So, how do we benefit from using technology? The price point can come down, but the profit can go up and both the client and the law firm are happier.