We may have had a mild winter (most of us) so far, but let’s be honest, 2020 has been a bit of a slog so far, am I right?

I haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t feeling like we don’t already need a do-over for this year. So much for a fresh decade! (Yes, I know, technically, the new decade starts in 2021, so we’ll revisit this again next year).

But there’s no time like the present to feel like we’re starting over. Who’s to say that today ISN’T the day we start again?

How can we do that? By creating some “WOW” in our relationship development, using these two tips.

Step One: Get Focused

I find when I’m the most overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the work I’m doing, the best way to liven things up is to get truly focused. When it comes to relationship development, this is all about having a deep understanding about the different types of audiences you have – when we’re talking about relationships, it may seem weird to call them “audiences,” but that’s what they are. If it makes you more comfortable, you can consider them to be clients, potential clients, connections, friends, whatever.

Then, you also need to be crystal clear on the goals that you have for your relationship development efforts with each of these groups. Why? Because you’re not going to have the resources to consistently reach ALL of the groups that you want to – and I’m not simply talking financial resources. When you’re a busy lawyer, we all know that your most important resource is TIME. So to make the most of that all-important resource, you want to be laser-focused. How?

  • First, you want to identify “what is it that I want?”: Do you want more clients in a particular area of the law or a particular industry? Do you want to develop a reputation as a go-to thought leader and speaker on a certain topic? Are you trying to get more work from current clients, or more new work?
  • Once you know what you want, translate that into a concrete, measurable goal. For example: I’d like to get 10% more work from [x] client over the next 12 months. That’s concrete, it’s measurable, and there’s a deadline on it.

From there, you develop your plan, and as part of that plan, you need to identify WHO you’re targeting in order to achieve your goals, and then what tactics you’ll use to reach them. These tactics may include visiting your client’s offices at no charge, taking your client out to lunch or dinner every month…and they may involve other types of business development initiatives as well. Don’t forget that other tactics exist.

You may find that you have a number of goals, and, as a result, a number of audiences/connections. Or even one goal, with a number of audiences that you need to reach to achieve that goal.

And when that happens, it’s essential to prioritize. Who is the most important group of people for you to reach, and what are the tactics you want to invest the most time and other resources in reaching them? Decide which type of activities will be the most effective for reaching those people, based on your goals, your budget, and your timeline. You may need a professional marketer’s help with this.

Step Two: Get Competitive

This may seem an odd idea to include when I’m talking about relationship development, but stick with me for a moment.

In the last step, you’ve already gotten very focused. You’ve drilled down to figure out who your audiences are for each of your goals, and so it should be a fairly easy step to identify the top five competitors for each of those audiences. But you’ll want to be very specific here, because it’s not just about the obvious law firm competitors that you’d face in a potential beauty contest, especially in today’s market. You may be up against people who are outside of law firms too – like other inside counsel, alternative service providers, and more.

It’s likely that if I said to you, “who are your top five competitors in x industry?” you could immediately name them. But if you looked a little deeper at who your top clients in that industry are also following on Twitter, you might be surprised – is it the same top five competitors? Or are there other firms in the mix? Do a little extra due diligence when you’re sussing out your competition through social channels to identify who is competing for your audience’s attention – it may not be as obvious as it appears at first glance.

Once you know who’s on the list, learn from them.

While I love the idea of being ground-breaking, there are two truths here – the first is that lawyers don’t want to be first; they want to be first to be second. And the second is that we can often get great, creative ideas from seeing what others are doing. Yes, you only have an eye on so much of what they’re doing, because you’re not getting the private view, but the public view can also be very helpful to you. Are they finding ways to connect with clients and potential clients that they’re promoting through their social channels that you may not have considered? As you’re keeping an eye on your competitors, see what you like about their content, what you don’t like, what best practices you’d like to implement, what reinforces what you’re already doing, and what new ideas come to you to try out. You may even see something in one place that would appear revolutionary in another (for example, finding a way to conduct Twitter chats, which are old hat, over on Snapchat). Perhaps they’re sharing photos of themselves connecting with clients in ways that you could consider or replicate.

Staying on top of what your competition is up to is easier than ever these days with content marketing and social media – and it helps keep you on the cutting edge of your industry, see what your competitors are sharing with your audience (and thus how you can use a different and unique perspective to build your relationships, instead of the same old thing), and hopefully, inspires you to connect over something brand new and engaging that will add that WOW factor for your audience.

Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.