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Client Development: Ditch the Inertia

By Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

Really now, you know you’ve got to get more aggressive about bringing in new clients. As Mom used to say, “Those bills aren’t going to pay themselves!”

But where to start? All those truly great articles about “networking” and “closing the sale,” all those well-intentioned stories from your partners about “the one that got away,” and all those books on your nightstand simply leave you feeling overwhelmed. And while you are sitting around wondering what it all means to you, somebody else is signing the deal with your dream client.

If you find yourself wishing someone would tell you just one thing you could do that would help, this one’s for you! Here are five steps you can take today to get past your client development inertia and get moving in the right direction.

1.  Create a simple written piece that describes you and your practice to potential clients. Don’t forget to describe what you can do for them instead of just bragging about your own amazing credentials. If you can include a few war stories about times when you really made a difference for a client, that’s even better. Use friendly language. Keep it where you can get at it quickly: Print 10 copies on your letterhead and publish it — or an appropriate version — on your social media profiles.

2. Make sure you have a good supply of business cards with you wherever you go. Give them to people. (I know, I know. But sometimes it’s the simple things that we forget.) Don’t forget to ask for their card at the same time. (See number 5, below.)

3. Join the right type of local organization. The right organization includes as members the kind of people who can hire and pay someone like you to do exactly the kind of legal work you want to do. Calendar the next five meetings. Don’t miss them. Speak up. Volunteer. Get involved! (See number 2.)

4. Promise yourself to have lunch with one person every week who could either hire you or introduce you to someone who could hire you. Now, while you’re thinking about it, pick up the phone and schedule the first four lunches on your calendar. (See number 1, above, and take a copy or two of your materials with you to to lunch. Don’t bring it back with you when you’re done. It’s called a “leave-behind” for a reason.)

5.  Create a simple system for recording and accessing contact information from the business cards you collect. It could be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as any client relationship management software can be. If you have access to it, get administrative help to keep your system in order. You’ll expand and use this in myriad ways over time. On paper or in the cloud, what matters is that you must be able to quickly get at just the right name and contact information when you need it.

And that’s it—five simple things to get you past the inertia.

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing, Rainmaking
Originally published June 3, 2010
Last updated June 9, 2022
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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. 

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