Business Development Leadership

Investing in business development

I was speaking with my colleague Joan Paul in Calgary last week. Like me, she is a Royal Roads University trained business coach who works with lawyers. She and I like to share ideas, and collaborate on articles and projects. This week we were talking about the optimum investment of lawyers’ non-billable time in business development.

How much time do lawyers really need to invest each week in business development activities?

Joan quoted Sally Schmidt’s book “Business Development for Lawyers, Strategies for Getting and Keeping Clients”, which suggests that if you are new to the practice of law you should spend 50 to 100 hours a year or 1 to 2 hours a week. If you are a senior associate then you are advised to spend somewhere between 100 to 200 hours annually. And if you a partner rainmaker you are likely spending in the range of 250 to 500 hours a year.

Joan and I both find that the challenge for many professionals is about how then to invest this business development time for best results. Joan told me she always begins by asking her clients:

  • What are the results you want to achieve and by when?
  • Who is your target audience for best results?
  • What is the best way to reach that audience?
  • What are the skills you can capitalize on to reach out to that audience? Are you a great writer? Speaker? Networker?
  • How do you hold yourself accountable for your business development activities?
  • How do you market yourself inside your firm or organization?
  • What’s stopping you from developing and implementing a business development plan?

These questions can serve as a guide to making the best choices. In addition I like to consider the lawyer’s network of relationships. How developed is it? For newly-called lawyers it is important to be building relationships, and raising their profile both within and without the law firm. For senior lawyers with a well established network the question is how are you keeping actively in touch with the people you know?

And always it is vital to start with current client relationships. Existing clients are the best source of new and repeat business. Communicating with clients about their level of satisfaction, their needs and concerns, is always the first place to invest.



About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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