There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to business development for lawyers. The challenge for any writer tackling the subject today is how to add value in a field already saturated with publications. Peter H. Freeman, the author of the ARC Group’s latest publication, Secrets of the Masters – The Business Development Guide for Lawyers, has successfully produced a fresh and practical guide that will make a worthy addition to every law firm’s library.
As a coach of lawyers I immediately appreciated Freeman’s approach to the subject matter. Here is my top ten list of what I like most about the book.
1. This is a coach-in-a-book! He infuses the book with a “coach-approach” by guiding the reader through the development of their own personal strategy and approach to business development. He asks questions to provoke insights. He offers a series of skillful practices to apply. And each chapter closes with a planning template designed to move the reader into action. It would be very difficult to read the book and not be tempted into action.
2. Freeman helps the reader to find a niche area of focus. The challenge for lawyers is that there are so many different possible strategies and actions to take. Freeman helps the reader sort through the options to find the path that is right for the individual.
3. The book is full of great coaching questions. Many of the coaching questions I use at the beginning of an engagement he covered in his opening chapter. Such as: “To get a feel for where you should spend your limited marketing time, answer these questions: What do I love to do? What kind of people do I like be around? How can I spend more time doing what I like?” (Secrets, p.2)
4. More is better. The Masters referenced in the title are the legal marketing and business development professionals Freeman has collaborated with over the years on webinars and in the development of this book. The variety of voices and experiences provides rich and varied viewpoints and expertise and I really appreciated the tips and stories shared by this senior panel of legal insiders.
5. Tons of informative case studies. Freeman features a myriad of case studies to illustrate the concepts in action. These case studies bring the theoretical content to life and give the reader a clear sense of how the approaches and skills described in the guide work in practice.
6. Freeman really understands lawyers. Most of the lawyers I know are hard working, dedicated professionals who avoid the spotlight and dread coming across as “salesy”. Throughout the book Freeman provides regular answers to the concerns lawyers raise such as the following anecdote from a presentation Freeman held with in-house and external counsel:
An outside lawyer said “I don’t want to taint my reputation with my client by looking like a salesperson, so I don’t stay in touch with former clients.” An in-house lawyer responded with, “While I can see your point, let me give you another perspective. Say you and I worked on a matter for months, perhaps a year. We worked crazy hours together, you invited me to ball games, our families got together, and then, once the matter ended and I paid you, I don’t hear from you. During the matter, you claimed you cared about building strong relationships with your clients, but then, radio silence. Were you a friend for hire, or did you truly care? If you do care, then I welcome your periodic calls to see how I am, how the matter is progressing, and to shoot the breeze about our favorite sports teams.” (Secrets, p.24)
7. There is something for everyone in this book. The book will work equally well for small, medium, or large firm lawyers. Topics covered include:
Chapter 1: Finding niches and developing your strategy
Chapter 2: Growing networks and staying memorable
Chapter 3: Getting and maximizing meetings
Chapter 4: Client loyalty – Delivering exceptional client service
Chapter 5: Cross-selling – Working together to get more work from existing clients
Chapter 6: Maximizing business development for laterals
Chapter 7: Social networking, social media, websites and
Chapter 8: Alternative fee arrangements
Chapter 9: Sustainability techniques
Appendix: Personal business development plan
While Chapters 5 and 6 are aimed at medium to large firms the majority of the content is applicable to all areas of practice and size of firm.
8. The personal business development plan is great. I have been using a similar planning template with my clients for years and it was great to see Freeman take a like approach. It uses a series of powerful questions to help the individual zero in on their strengths, their niche areas of focus, and the plan that is going to work best for them. Plus that, it’s short, not one of those multi-page treatises some firms insist on.
9. It includes a recipe for sustaining the action! One of the big stumbling blocks for lawyers is maintaining a steady investment in business development. Secrets of the Masters dedicates an entire chapter to sustainability.
10. This is one book that scores high on practical application. With Secrets of the Masters in hand the reader is ready to embark on a self-guided coaching journey. Following the trail of questions to consider, actions lists, and the planning document the reader is equipped to develop a sure and strategic path forward.
The only drawback is that this is one very expensive book! I do recommend the expenditure for medium to large-sized firms. Most of the information in the book – will remain relevant and applicable for many years to come. You can sample the book by downloading a free chapter here. For solo and small firms I think the book is worth the price if you are ready to put some dedicated and regular time into growing your practice and plan to use the book as a practical self-coaching resource. It would also work great to pair up with a colleague and work through the book together.
In closing, it is also a useful resource for legal marketers who want to develop their own skills and abilities, and to help them with coaching the lawyers they work with on business development.