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Books to Prepare You for Law Firm Business Success

I've been on the road a great deal during the past few months and that's provided me with plenty of time to read a lot of books. Here are a few of my favorites that I think you might find useful in your business development efforts.

Sally Schmidt's Business Development for Lawyers: Strategies for Getting and Keeping Clients

Written specifically for lawyers, Schmidt's book addresses many ways to develop business including writing, speaking, networking, involvement in professional organizations, responding to RFPs, seeking referrals and cross-selling.

The variety Schmidt offers in no way means the book is a generic compilation of marketing tactics; rather, it is appropriately discriminating about the relative efficacy of various tactics:

  • "Writing may be the marketing activity least likely to produce business per se, but can still be a valuable piece of your overall marketing effort."
  • "Because your time is so limited, you should be very clear about the type of prospect on which you want to focus your efforts."

And it is realistic:

  • "Most clients will not be inclined to change counsel without a compelling reason to do so."
  • "If you are having trouble developing business, it usually has nothing to do with your ability to 'close'; it is related to the fact you haven't identified or met the prospective client's needs."


As any good marketing book should, it encourages "client-focus" and emphasizes developing strong personal relationships. It highlights the importance of preparation and follow-up in all situations--from attendance at a conference to lunch with a client.

Worth reading cover to cover (if you have the time and inclination) or having on your bookshelf as a reference tool to consult when you are engaged in a specific marketing activity.

Tom Rath's Vital Friends

Rath believes that the quality of the relationships you have with people you work with dramatically affects your satisfaction and productivity at work. It may sound like fluff, but it isn't. The book, produced by the Gallup Organization, is supported by extensive research.

According to the book, people who have a "best friend" at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. They get more done in less time. They also have more engaged customers and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas.

What the book has to say about friendships in the workplace is equally applicable to relationships with clients, potential clients and referral sources. After all, people like to do business with people they like.

According to Rath, friendships (for our purposes, you can substitute the word "relationships") fall into one of eight categories:

  • Builders (they motivate you)
  • Champions (they sing your praises)
  • Collaborators (they have similar interests, passions)
  • Companions (they are always there for you)
  • Connectors (they introduce you to others)
  • Energizers (they always give you a boost)
  • Mind openers (they expand your horizons)
  • Navigators (they help you make decisions)


Which of these roles do you play in your client's life?

The book makes specific suggestions for strengthening relationships based on the role you fill in the other person's life. It is worth considering how using these suggestions will enhance your relationships with clients and referral sources.

The book provides an online assessment to help you categorize which of these roles specific individuals play in your life. I urge you to take the assessment focusing on key clients or referral sources.

Then, do something today to cultivate your relationship with one of your clients. By bolstering these relationships, you may see your business development results take off.

Michael Port's Book Yourself Solid

This book provides practical advice about the seven strategies that service professionals (yes--that includes lawyers) can use to grow their businesses. The strategies are networking, direct outreach, referrals, website presence, speaking, writing and keeping in touch. Port advises selecting strategies that draw on your strengths and not overwhelming yourself by trying to use all the strategies at once. Sage advice!

While the book may be a bit "new agey" for some, its central themes of identifying your ideal clients, discovering their needs and selling to those needs are solid advice for even the most conservative lawyer. The exercises throughout the book will help you identify effective, comfortable ways to promote yourself.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen's Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law

Not exactly a business development book but this book is well worth your time if you are concerned about promoting and retaining women lawyers at the partnership level.

Unlike many other authors who address the issue of women's slow progress in law firms, Rikleen focuses on the structure of the firms themselves as the real culprit in women's exodus from law firms and their failure to join the partnership ranks.

In her meticulously researched book, Rikleen points to institutional impediments in recruitment, retention and advancement of women that include the lack of full-time (and, in many cases, real) management of the firm, the misguided management selection process, incessant and increasing billable hour pressure, and "up or out" promotion policies.

Among the changes suggested are:

  • Full-time firm management
  • Practice group management selected for management skills
  • Compensation systems designed to reward a variety of workplace achievements
  • More flexible working arrangements
  • A more horizontal organizational structure


I would have liked Rikleen to have placed more emphasis on the need for women to build their own books of business to control their futures in their law firms; nevertheless, this book is definitely worth your time.

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