Trellis White paper Ad 770 Spot #6
share TWEET PIN IT share share 0
Getting Clients

Check Your Business Development Vital Signs

By Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

You know by now (did you ever not?) that it takes more than your business card and an open door to draw clients into your law office. And while you may have devised your marketing plan and work it to the best of your ability, January is still a good time to pause and check your vital signs when it comes to getting clients.

Are You Operating at Your Peak?

Each year, when you visit the doctor for your annual physical, she checks the basic indicators — blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, reflexes, heart rate — to get a read on your physical health. Today, let’s look at some basic indicators of a healthy business development program to see how ready you are for a successful 2017.

  • Your niche. Do you know how you want to spend your work life — what kinds of problems you want to help solve and who you want to work with to solve them? Have you used that knowledge to narrowly define your target market? Do you know, then, which organizations you should frequent, which publications you should follow, which venues are best for your speaking efforts and where it makes sense (if at all) for you to advertise? If not: You may be wasting much valuable time marketing to everyone everywhere when narrowing the field could power up your efforts — and the results. 
  • Contact list. Do you scrupulously keep track of current contact information for any and all you’ve come in contact with? If you or your firm haven’t invested in contact management software, are you at least keeping the information in a spreadsheet? Are you including categories (industry, Zip code, etc.) that will let you quickly sort to create an invitation list for a specific seminar or briefing on a change in the law? If not: You may be spending more business development time looking for names and addresses than speaking directly with exactly the right people for the situation.
  • Resume database. Do you have a single spot (Word document, paper file folder, spreadsheet, shoebox) where you keep historic information about your career and accomplishments — speeches given, honors received, advisors’ names, opposing counsel, positive client feedback and more? No, you won’t dump all that minutiae into your resume. But you will draw on this treasure trove for the details of exactly the right background items to use for a specific proposal, pitch or biography. If not: You probably spend too much time looking for information and invariably produce descriptions of your qualifications that are far from complete and not nearly as effective as they might be.
  • Personal and practice descriptions. Every time you turn around, someone is asking for your bio for one good reason or another — website profile, seminar speaker description, introduction to a potential client. So, when that call comes, are you able to simply click on the “Bio” file on your computer desktop and zap one to whomever needs it? (Of course, you’ve got several versions to choose from, each highlighting different aspects of your career and practice, right?) Next to that file icon, there should also be one titled something like “Headshots” containing good business images. Note, though, unless the most recent photo in that file is less than a year old, it’s time to get a new photo takenIf not: You aren’t taken full advantage of the opportunities to tell your market about yourself.

Illustration ©

Sign Up for ‘One Really Good Idea Every Day’

Get Attorney at Work’s daily dispatch every day in your inbox, just sign up here.

Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Getting Clients, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published January 16, 2017
Last updated June 16, 2023
share TWEET PIN IT share share
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

Merrilyn is the author of “Getting Clients: For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over.” She has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, an LMA Hall of Fame inductee, and a past President of the College of Law Practice Management. Merrilyn was a founding partner of Attorney at Work. 

More Posts By This Author
MUST READ Articles for Law Firms Click to expand

Welcome to Attorney at Work!

Sign up for our free newsletter.


All fields are required. By signing up, you are opting in to Attorney at Work's free practice tips newsletter and occasional emails with news and offers. By using this service, you indicate that you agree to our Terms and Conditions and have read and understand our Privacy Policy.