Most clients already have an established relationship with a lawyer or law firm. That means that if you want to expand your business, you have to steal it from someone else.   The best way to do this is with a full-court press.

It’s much easier to get more work from an existing client so that would always be the starting point for a strong marketing plan. But it also makes sense to spend at least some time attracting brand new clients.  This can be done through an RFP process, but if the potential client has initiated such a process, you need to find another way to woo them.  That’s where the full court press comes in.

A full court press is a plan comprised of multiple action items all with the eventual aim of winning over the client.  Too often, when lawyers finally decide to go after potential new clients, they believe that a single action item should suffice.  “I’ll invite them to lunch”.  “I’ll give their employees a free seminar”.  “I’ll them to a hockey game”.  Think about it: you’ve worked with the same service provider for at least three years and don’t have any issues with them.  Someone approaches you – out of the blue – and asks you to shift from that trusted adviser because they took you to a hockey game or bought you a sandwich.  Is that enough to move you?  Probably not.

A full-court press is a focused, targeted and multi-stage process that over time influences the client to give you a shot.  From there, it’s up to you to prove yourself.  Some firms approach the full-court press by developing a laundry list of things they will do for, with and to the potential client.  Does it work? Think back to when you were dating.  If someone used every opportunity to get close to you, it might be flattering but it also might be annoying as heck.  All attention is not good attention.  Consider being more strategic in your approach.  Here’s how:

  1. Start by establishing and then increasing name recognition: The first step in any business relationship development is to ensure the target knows who you are, and what you do. Make sure they’ve seen your logo many times, seen you at events, and connected your lawyers with the firm name.  Make a point of seeking out the target at events you are both attending. Introduce yourself the first time, and touch base every time after that.
  2. Demonstrate your value: Look for ways to show your value proposition to the target. This can be done by writing (a blog posting, article in a magazine or white paper for email distribution to interested parties) or presenting at a speaking engagement on a topic of interest to them. It could also be done through a testimonial or recommendation/referral from a mutual acquaintance.
  3. Do your research and prepare your pitch: Learn as much about the target as you can. Start with their website, which can hold a wealth of information on their firm vision, values, mission, culture, service offerings or products, geographical coverage, probable target market, industry insights, news items, goals, etc.  Do some research on the industry: what’s changing?  What issues are they facing?  What’s headed their way?  Next, mine your firm and your network to see who knows who at the target company and get the inside scoop.  What are their goals? What’s changing within the company in the near future?  What keeps them up at night?   Based on all of this intel, and anything you can gleam from “bumping into” the target at various events, determine your pitch.  What can you offer them that they need, and that their current counsel might not be able to offer in the same way?
  4. Get a meeting: Now you can approach the target directly.  They know who you are and what you do.  They know your value proposition.  They likely have enough comfort to meet with you for lunch. Let them know that the purpose of the lunch is to get to know them and their company better.  You might even drop a few tidbits that show you’ve done your homework regarding them and their industry.  They’ll know the meeting will be a sales call, but hopefully your preliminary work with them will make them open to accepting the invitation.
  5. Talk smart: at the meeting, focus on them first. Note people you know in common.  Ask lighter questions (such as about their industry) in a way that demonstrates you have more than a casual knowledge about their situation.  Over time, ask more probing questions that again demonstrate you’ve done your research.  Then be ready with your pitch, which is a summary of your more direct value proposition for them.  Be compelling: why should they bother to try you?  Make it easy for them to say yes.  Suggest a trial balloon, such as to be called in on conflicts, or to try one file and show what you can do.   Be very specific with your ask.

The pathway from step one to step five could take anywhere from six months to two years.  There are those who will say “forget it, let’s just pick up the phone and call them!” and there’s a small chance they might be able to get a meeting.  But without the preliminary work, it will feel hollow to the target.  Clients are much more sophisticated, informed and picky about their legal counsel than ever before.  They have strong garbage detectors.  And they don’t usually give second chances.  If you really want to win over a new client, make the longer-term investment.  Strategize, plan, do your homework, then execute brilliantly.

Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms and lawyers.  She can be reached at