Are you spending too much time on business development? What an absurd thought! If you are just going through the motions then maybe it is possible to be spending too much time. For instance… Do you call this networking?
You arrive at a networking event with lots of business cards in your pocket, you scan the room for the faces you know and the people that look important and useful to you mission, and think… “I hate this!” You then make your way through the crowed room shaking hands, smiling, handing out business cards and collecting them, having a short 30 second conversation… then moving on! Repeat, repeat and repeat. You get back to your office and there are 3 people at your door with urgent questions. You put the stack of business cards on your desk… where they will stay for weeks. When you finally look at the stack you realize that it’s too late to call these people. This my friends is going through the motions! The biggest waste of time! You would be better off watching re-runs of Saturday Night Live, at least you would enjoy it!
In my 27-plus years in legal marketing, I can assure you I have never – let me repeat, never – encountered lawyers who spent too much time on developing business. On the contrary, I’ve met too many who didn’t and don’t spend enough time on it. And I have run across a lot who wasted time doing the wrong things and thus were ineffective in bringing in more work for the firm. But, spending too much time on really effective business developing? Never.
Additionally, I’ve heard many a lawyer say that they are too busy to do marketing. When delving further, it usually means “don’t want to, ain’t gonna.” If a lawyer is really busy doing client work that she enjoys for enjoyable clients, then I’ll extend a pass… for this week. Because no matter what, the pipeline needs to be fed and kept flowing. Furthermore, the “busyness” often complained about involves non-productive time doing things that other lawyers or administrative staff could do more effectively and efficiently.
That is why I got a kick out of a recent discussion on LinkedIn’s Law Practice Management Professionals Group. The question was asked as to whether 20% (or one day per week) of a lawyer’s time spent on business development was too much. One person responded that “is way too much time;” and proceeded to equate the time (assuming an 8-hour day) to lost revenue of 8 times (let’s say) $250 per hour = $2000 lost. Of course, it is “silly” (I’m trying to be nice here) to assume that if you aren’t spending “too much” time developing business you would otherwise be billing clients for those same hours.
In the end it is foolish to put a number on what is too little or too much time spent on marketing, client work, admin, recreation and, hopefully, family time. What is important is to spend all of the time doing all of those things necessary for you to be a successful lawyer in a well-rounded sense, and serve clients well. If you have client work that needs to be done, do it. But don’t overlook the need to be generating more. If you don’t have enough work to sustain your life style long term, best to think about how to spend more time – a lot more time – effectively developing business now.
Do I think you might ever spend too much time on marketing? Not a chance!!
Be honest… are you doing what needs to be done to develop business? Few of you can answer the question with a resounding YES, since there is always room for improvement. If you are one of the fortunate ones that have a full pipeline of business, I will bet that you did plenty to make that happen and never felt you did too much.