In a world where all that matters is the money you can bring to the table, improving your business development skills is key to success.
This article by Michael McDonald in Above The Law talks about it and raises some very interesting points. It is true, as they say, that advertising in the legal industry has an unprecedented stigma. Firms have tried to get around this issue by finding other ways to promote their image other than direct advertising: mainly sponsoring events, but also creating some events of their own to consolidate relationships.
The author of the article points out 4 steps that attorneys should consider to improve your BD skills:
Looking at options to reach customers through advertising;
Analyzing the data on the return of that investment in advertising to see where has it been more effective in order to continue that way;
Studying different pricing opportunities for different types of client; and
Considering litigation finance.
Personally, I this this kind of conversation can be of use for partners and decision takers in a firm. However, for mid-level associates they are too abstract. Here are my recommendations for associates:
Learn about your firm positioning in the market, where it is now and where does it want to be, so you can explain that to everyone;
Learn about the kind of client your firm (or your specific department) is looking for. Any client is generally not a good answer;
Connect, connect, connect. You have to keep in touch; and
Give before you receive. Don't be afraid to give some recommendations for free (not actual legal work) before you actually close the client.
The earlier you start doing these things, the better off you will be down the road in building that client based.