now a fundamental requirement for barristers to be able to develop
new business opportunities through ‘networking’. Contacts
need to be developed into new clients and existing clients need
to be encouraged to make greater use of the legal skills available
to them. What may seem like shameless self-promotion to the more
traditional member of the bar comes naturally to the newer breed
of barrister, who has recognised that clients have increased expectations
and that their requirements have changed. Barristers who fail to
recognise this trend risk losing out.
are two key principles required to network successfully and without
embarrassment. The first principle is that client development is
about ‘listening’ not ‘talking’. The second
principle is that selling is ‘helping’ not ‘imposing’.
these Five Simple Steps (taking into account the Bar’s Code
of Conduct) to increase the return on the investment of time and
effort you put into nurturing current clients and developing new
contacts, in order to increase your instructions and to ensure that
all the people you meet become your enthusiastic ambassadors and
sources of referrals.
1 – Create and seize opportunities
This is the most daunting step, but qualms can be overcome by anticipation,
planning and thought. Set your objectives. Before you start, answer
the questions: how you would like to expand your practice? What
level and type of work are you seeking? Who among the clients that
already instruct you would you like more work from? Who has not
instructed you recently and why? Which new clients would you like?
Where are good sources of referrals?
Leads broadly comprise those you create and the opportunistic. It
is easier and more cost effective to win further instructions from
an existing client than new instructions from a new client. Therefore,
create opportunities to talk and listen to your client during and
at the end of cases and matters, when he might mention other cases
or issues which he or his colleagues are concerned about. You can
also create leads, for example, by attending the events and conferences
run by and for your clients. Make yourself stay for the breaks,
drinks and dinners and talk to those from whom you would like more
leads are everywhere and any conversation could turn into something.
Don’t try to talk at somebody, believing it is ‘selling’
– it is just boring and can appear to be arrogant and condescending.
Be interested in them and interesting to them. It would be a mistake
to try to ‘sell’ anything initially: it is about creating
a rapport and exchanging ideas. Even sitting next to somebody on
an aeroplane and just chatting has been known to generate major
opportunities are developed by asking open questions (what, when,
where, who, how, how much, and why) and listening actively to the
answers. We have two ears and one mouth, and that is the proportion
of listening to talking that you should do. Listen and determine
where your help could be useful and appreciated. Don’t become
too intense at a party or event, but look for the opportunity to
say, “Why don’t I give you a call about that …and
perhaps we can meet up and discuss it further?”
2 – Telephone
You could ask your Chief/Senior Clerk or Practice Manager to follow
up this opportunity. However, by making the call yourself, you are
demonstrating your sincere wish to develop the relationship. Picking
up the telephone can be difficult. Fear of rejection is high. You
can overcome this by remembering that the person you are telephoning
has given you
permission to get in touch. Before picking up the telephone: smile;
take three deep breaths and remember that they will be looking forward
to your call!
are five stages to ensure a successful call. Make the introduction
clear: say your name and that of your chambers slowly and clearly.
Ask whether now is a convenient time for them to talk to you. Make
it easy for the person to remember you by referring back to what
you had previously talked about. The purpose of your call is to
arrange a meeting – nothing more. Make an arrangement to meet
for lunch, drinks or coffee, or even a more formal meeting, if that
is what the solicitor has indicated might be useful to him. Confirm
all the details on the telephone and then by email.
Step 3 – Research for the Meeting
Research the individuals you are meeting, including how satisfied
they are with any work you or your chambers may have done for them
before; their expertise; experience; likes, dislikes; and their
views on using counsel. Research their firm, including its main
practice areas, its competitors; what it prides itself on; references
in Chambers and Legal 500 and recent profile. If you have discussed
the problems of the lay client, research that organisation, including
its culture, vision, objectives and try to find out the context
of the problem. Much of this information can be obtained from websites,
reports and accounts and a media search.
and know your own chambers. For what is your set renowned? Who are
the stars? What are the highlights of the previous six months? What
cases and judgements have they been involved in? What does your
website say about the set? What has the press reported over the
previous six months? This will enable you to promote the set and
cross-sell other barristers.
yourself! What have you done which will be of relevance to this
potential client? What are the key elements of the problem that
you could help with, why and how? What key messages do you want
to convey to this potential client? It will vary from client to
client: some may want their ideas confirmed, while others may want
‘handholding’ or you to enhance their credibility with
their own client.
Step 4 – Plan the meeting
meticulously. Should you take another barrister? Where should you
meet? What would be interesting conversation topics? How can you
make the conversation flow easily? What are your objectives for
the meeting? Think about what the client will be looking for, and
what their objectives might be. Bear in mind that all the time the
client will be asking of you “Will this barrister make me
look good in front of my client?” “Will they be an enthusiastic
champion of our cause?” “How will this person fit in
with the rest of the legal team?”
prepared for anything. For example “popping in for a casual
chat” may actually become an informal beauty parade. Prepare
open questions based on your research and any previous contact you
might have had with the firm or their client. Practise confident
and non-defensive answers to difficult questions you might be asked.
Think of all possible outcomes of the meeting and be prepared for
these with different options that you can offer on the way forward.
Discuss these with the client and then agree which is the best way
in which to take the next step. It may take several encounters and
even several years, before you are instructed, but keep nurturing
the relationship in a structured way.
Step 5 – Follow-up and strengthen the relationship
Create a realistic plan to keep in regular contact with the client
to show your genuine interest, without such contact being “so
frequent or obtrusive as to cause annoyance to those to whom is
directed,” (Code of Conduct 710.2 f ). The plan should be
detailed for six months and possibly for up to two years and be
constantly revised and up-dated. It could involve others in your
set and a range of different people in the firm or the lay client’s
plan may include, for example: brief newsletters up-dating clients
on what you and your set, particularly the younger barristers, can
offer. If you have written an academic article about the likely
impact of a case in which you have been involved, you could send
this to the client, highlighting paragraphs which might be of particular
interest. “Well presented seminars are an opportunity to display
the expertise of the counsel in a manner than is helpful to solicitors
and others” (Practice Management for the Bar - 3.5.2). Use
these opportunities to refresh relationships with clients and not
to talk to other members of chambers! Offers to contribute to in-house
training in law firms are often welcome. Thoughtful invitations
to appropriate social and cultural events maybe appreciated.
the time comes for a solicitor to instruct you, how do you spot
the signs that he is interested in doing so? Some of the indicators
might be questions about your other cases and commitments at the
moment; possible conflicts of interest; the amount of work involved
and working with other members of his legal team. Find out how the
client would like to proceed and welcome the new instructions with
a quick call to say that you have received the papers safely and
how pleased you are to be working together (again).
Pippa Blakemore, BSc, PGCE, Partner in The PEP Partnership LLP,
specialises in the provision of marketing and business development
skills to barristers and solicitors. She works with lawyers on every
aspect of winning and keeping clients including workshops on presentation
skills, working the room and effective client care. Pippa can be
contacted on her direct line on 0118 9310688 or email: email@example.com.
More information about Pippa and the work she does is on www.pep-partnership.co.uk