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Don’t Neglect Old Clients in Search of a Shiny New Penny

PennyHow much time do you typically spend each month seeking new clients? If you’re like many other firm lawyers, you are devoting great blocks of time to RFPs, speaking engagements, industry conferences, entertainment and much more in an effort to develop new client relationships.

All of those activities are valuable and important, but you are losing out on a great deal of business if you’re not strategic about the time spent chasing new business versus caring for existing clients.

Client relationships take near-constant attention. Many lawyers understand and accept that but still spend excessive time on potential clients compared to the time spent on existing clients. It’s understandable—the energy and enthusiasm of going after a shiny new client is more fun than the steady care of an existing one. But you’ll find a much greater potential for return on time spent with existing clients.

A few ways to make that time worthwhile:

  1. Take a step back from day-to-day matters. You may have been working with some clients for a number of years, but don’t let the short-term billable hour trump the long-term investment. Try to get some big-picture perspective on the direction of the relationship, what has worked well and what needs improvement.
  1. Ask clients the important questions. For example: What will be each client’s focus in 2016? Is the firm helping its clients reach strategic objectives? What do clients value most in their other outside counsel relationships? These questions will make you a part of the bigger conversation.
  1. Make connections. Listen to what your clients need and seek other areas where your firm can help. Don’t offer to be everything to everyone, but look for places where clients’ needs and your firm’s strengths match up.
  1. Don’t forget about the “second tier.” I often see lawyers focus their efforts on the top few clients and neglect the slightly less important ones. Your top billing clients need that attention, but sometimes the second-tier clients have the greatest untapped opportunities.
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