This article focuses on how successfully developing new business is a lot like playing baseball. Here’s how:
§ Having a Winning Season – For a baseball team to have a winning season, all players and staff need to perform at their peak. The same is true for lawyers and law firms. Every attorney and staff member can contribute to new business development in one way or another to help ensure the firm has an excellent year. But if lawyers and staff members do not fully understand their roles and expected contributions, they may not perform at their peak and the firm may not have as successful a year as hoped.
§ Spring Training – Some baseball players show up to spring training camp in top shape, while others use spring training as a means to reclaim peak performance. The same is true for lawyers and law firms when it comes to new business development: many engage in what they define as business development only when they have time or feel like it. But in order to “play” effectively, it is important for lawyers to get and stay “in shape,” i.e., to put in the work to hone their knowledge and skills all year long.
§ Recruiting Star Players – When a Major League Baseball team acquires new talent, the team devotes significant and very focused time and resources to guiding, instructing and teaching the new player in order to ensure success. Most major law firms also rely heavily on lateral hires/acquisitions to fuel growth. Yet based on numerous survey findings and the continuing turnover of many lateral partners, few law firms have an effective lateral integration and development processes to ensure success for their (very expensive) laterals.
§ Understanding the Rules of the Game – Baseball players have a deep, master-level understanding of the playing field and all the nuances associated with the game. Most lawyers realize new business development is a relationship “game,” but they do not know all the ins and outs or the proven science of successful attorney-client and/or attorney-referral source relationships. Nor do they fully understand the process of new business development – which is in fact, like both baseball and the practice of law, a linear, proven and relatively predictable process.
§ Scoring – While hitting a grand-slam home run in baseball is ideal, it’s not the norm – it is the exception, which is why proven home-run hitters are paid so much. The majority of runs in baseball are scored after a series of fielded hits that allow the players to advance from base to base. The same is true for effective business development for lawyers. Rarely (if ever) will a company or client assign a lawyer all their outside legal work (the equivalent of hitting a home run in baseball). Instead, they normally offer a much smaller piece of work (a “base hit”), perhaps one case/matter or a conflict situation, which gives the lawyer the chance to prove his or her capabilities to the client and perhaps further develop the relationship.
§ Fielding Starters, but Having Backup – Without knowing each player’s skill set – exactly which player is best at which skill – most baseball teams will flounder. The same is true for law firms, the majority of which still expect each and every one of their lawyers to engage in what they define as new business development: speaking, writing and attending conferences, seminars and events. But these are really more marketing or awareness-generating activities, which many lawyers do not enjoy, like or excel at. In addition, many lawyers do not have a clearly designated backup lawyer(s) for every client, case or matter in the event that they get injured or are out of the game for any reason.
§ Practicing in the Batting Cage – To ensure peak results when going to bat, baseball players use the batting cage regularly to hone and refine their skills. Lawyers interested in becoming the best rainmakers or business developers they can be also need to regularly practice and hone their skills. There are numerous proven resources available for lawyers and law firms to assess, review, and/or upgrade their new business development program and initiatives.
Just like baseball players and their team, with focus, discipline, hard work and a little luck, you and your firm can become even greater champions!