Business Development Goals & Planning

The best business developers stay the course

Building a successful legal practice takes time and effort.  You can make all the right moves, build the right relationships, and develop your expertise and profile but it may take a number of years for the results to appear.  This is a test of your patience and resolve.  Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for. 

I was just speaking to a lawyer friend I worked with a few years back. I asked him the usual “how are you doing?” and he replied with a great “happily ever after” success story.

He works in a particular niche area of litigation and because of the seeds he planted over several years he is now the recognized expert in the niche and getting the biggest and best files. He absolutely loves his legal practice.

Here’s what made it happen: 

We met when he was a senior associate who had just joined the firm as a lateral hire. He had a goal to build up his practice in a particular niche litigation area. He’d been junior counsel on a number of important cases and it was time for him to take the lead.

At that time there were not many files in the area. But the prospects for the future were good. We developed his personal marketing plan. The emphasis of the plan was on building relationships with referral sources and potential clients and raising his profile.

He invested a great deal of time and effort in developing and expanding his network of contacts. He used his lunch hours for meeting people and developing existing relationships. He wrote articles and presented at conferences.  Always with a focus on the niche area of law.

Then he took the initiative and pitched the idea of a book on the subject to a legal publisher who agreed.  Of course not everyone at the firm supported the project.  Some wondered if the time might be better spent on further relationship building.  It was a gamble. Nonetheless he persisted and the first edition was published, followed by a second edition the following year.

Still the files were not coming in.  Had all that effort been for nothing?

All this marketing and business development and still only a small trickle of files. What was crucial is that he did not give up. Nor did his firm.

He began speaking at the law school. Kept writing. Kept presenting. Kept relationship building. And he stayed the course.

The word spread and finally after four years the files began to flow in. My friend is now the lawyer “who wrote the book” on this area of law. He has a completely full plate of his favorite type of legal work and is having the time of his life.

It’s a real success story.

And the firm?  The firm supported his investments of non-billable time, partners gave him work to keep his plate full and he was made partner even before the tides had turned in his favor.

What did he do right? He knew what he wanted. He completely focused his marketing and business development efforts on the goal. He invested a lot of time and effort. He took the initiative and created opportunities for raising his profile. He was not dissuaded by the naysayers.

And he just didn’t give up.

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.