A BD consultant, trainer and coach, Scott teaches lawyers the tips, techniques and methodologies to go into the marketplace, give their clients the best advice and win more work.
You can find him on LinkedIn.
You were a practising lawyer who turned into a business development (BD) coach and entrepreneur. How did you make the shift from a practicing lawyer to a consultant helping lawyers? Does the fact that you were a practising lawyer help you in your role as a BD consultant?
It was a gradual process. I realised that I was enjoying the business development elements of my role as a lawyer more than I was enjoying doing the legal work and I also found that I was quite good at it. So I started to read up more and more on the subject. Friends and family also told me I was a good listener and this is crucial in my role, and so the move came naturally. Being a non-practising lawyer definitely helps because I have sat on their side of the desk and can empathise with their situation.
What is Business Development and how important is it for lawyers and law firms in this day and age?
It is really important to distinguish business development from marketing. Marketing is all those activities that spark an interest in a law firm – it is brand building, attracting leads and prospects. Business development is what you do once you have sparked that interest – it is how you convert those leads and prospects into clients. That distinction is vital. Our marketing can be first-class, but if we do not align our business development with our marketing, or do not learn how to turn those leads into clients, we will not last very long as a business. The same applies for individual lawyers: BD is crucial in order to differentiate yourself, grow your client base, gain promotion, and better serve your clients.
The landscape has changed: it is not enough to just get the job done. Clients have more choice than ever and it is up to us to add value by understanding our clients’ needs and goals and matching those with people who can help.
Do you think it should be the responsibility of law schools to impart basic BD knowledge since once law students begin practice, they are expected to know how to deal with clients?
Absolutely, I think that learning how to win, relate to and serve clients is as important as doing the technical work. We’re not in the same industry we were in 30 years ago: technology is bringing about change that the legal profession has to adapt to or it will find itself irrelevant to clients.
Technology can never replace human relationships, talking through those decisions that don’t always make strategic or financial sense.
Being a lawyer isn’t just about drafting documents. Essential, human skills, like communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, leadership and so many more – along with business development – are separating out the good from the great lawyers and they should be taught alongside the technical law. And they need to be taught before the next generation of lawyers become entrenched in the belief that their job is just ‘to get the work done”.
Apart from being a consultant, you’re also a coach and a trainer. Walk us through your techniques, process, and strategy. How do you train and coach lawyers?
I have developed courses specific to ‘rainmaking’, which encompass the many elements of the business development process; articulating your value proposition, asking the right questions, objection handling, closing a sale, embracing CRM, to cover a few.
The most important thing about my training is that I demystify business development. Selling legal services in the 21st century isn’t complicated and that’s the first thing I make clear: we don’t have to sell like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Once lawyers understand this, learning how to sell becomes so much simpler.
With coaching, the most important element is giving my clients the time and space to think, talk and make strategic decisions. Lawyers get so caught up in the day-to-day of their job that they don’t give themselves time to grow their businesses or client base and, even worse, for personal development and growth. My job – any good coach’s job – is to listen, support and enable their genius. We all have genius within us – my role is to help my clients uncover the answers they have within them and give them the tools for continuous growth.
Your initiative Legal Balance Limited deals with BD consulting and coaching and training for lawyers. What is the idea behind this initiative and how did it start out?
The idea initially was to provide offshore law firms with onshore, boots-on-the-ground business development and marketing expertise, but this grew into a global outlook, as any English-speaking lawyer can take advantage of my coaching, training, or consultancy because much of what I do can be delivered online. We are currently looking at offering a digital course that splits up all the elements of business development, so lawyers can learn at their own pace and at times that suit them.
The most important principle behind what I do is to work with lawyers and law firms that want to make real, genuine changes to the way they work. BD training is still seen by law firms as a tick-box exercise, which makes it very ineffective. If done properly, the return on investment is huge, but firms have to do more than the occasional one-hour training session and send their lawyers off in the hope they will put into action what they’ve learned. It doesn’t often work that way because there is no follow-up, no accountability. To make a real difference, law firms have to build a culture of business development where these activities are undertaken every day and form part of their careers.
You run a brilliant video series on the Legal Balance Limited website, where you look at movies and speak to the lessons they hold for lawyers. (link here: https://legalbalance.co.uk/videos/) How did you conceptualise this?
I am an avid film buff. A movie maniac. Whatever you call it, I just love films! So, it was a natural progression to use my favourite films as analogies to make business development more interesting and relatable. I mean, what lawyer wouldn’t like having their BD work compared to Jaws!
You are also a career coach with CareerPoint. Can you tell us a little about this?
CareerPoint is an organisation that works with businesses to provide career advancement coaching to their young professionals. This is a demographic that very rarely has a roadmap for advancing in their careers and so can be overwhelming and confusing. CareerPoint coaching provides a structured framework to guide employees in the early stages of their careers without an added time investment from their leaders.
I am really excited about this aspect of my work, as coaching younger lawyers was always something I incorporated into my work when I was practising law and is part of what I do when I consult for law firms. Working with CareerPoint enables me to coach young professionals from all over the world in different industries and is incredibly rewarding.
With all these many hats that you wear, what does a normal day in your life look like?
Busy, organised, proactive. I love researching for my articles and videos; I can sometimes have 4 coaching sessions a day; and, in between, I am always reading or watching videos that can help me improve my own skills. Of course, at other times, I am also putting what I preach into practice and developing new business opportunities. Even I have to work to find my next client!
If a practising lawyer wants to move to legal business development, where should they start? What are the things they should focus on and what path can they take? Do you have any book/blog recommendations for such lawyers? Are there any courses or certifications they can do to help bolster their learning?
A great place to start is to remember that all clients need our help and advice, and the best way to give that help and advice is to ask as many questions as possible to get the most information.
Start by picking up the phone and saying “Hi”. Ask them how they are doing and what they have got going on. If they believe you are genuinely interested, clients will open up and tell you everything you need to help them.
I think it helps to be a natural communicator and, without question, you have to be passionate about business development, which I am, but many lawyers are not. Hence why I exist!
I’ve built training courses on selling and cross-selling, and I can tell you with absolute confidence that they work. They work because I work with lawyers who really want to put their learning into practice. Lawyers who aren’t being sent on my courses as part of a tick-box exercise, but because they and their employers really want to implement a culture of business development within their firms.
Because that’s what is important: coming away and putting into action what they’ve learned. And I check in regularly with all my clients – little reminders to keep them accountable, along with tips to further their learning and practice, and the freedom to contact me at any time with questions and thoughts about what they are doing. I want them to know I am here to help and guide them for as long as they want or need me.
Did the law of the land change in terms of BD for lawyers since the pandemic? Also, in light of ALSPs and many Legal Tech startups that provide legal services, how can a lawyer stand out in the crowd and improve their legal service delivery?
The pandemic has certainly brought the conversation around BD to the forefront. The pandemic brought with it an economic downturn and, in every downturn, when work slows down, law firms then look desperately at how they can increase revenue through BD. By then it’s too late: most legal services are complex sales and require relationship building and education of clients, and these are things that have to be done over longer periods of time, not when the tap has run dry. I’ve created an analogy video using the film Jaws that explains this really well.
But the world has been changing for a long time – technology, agile working, equality, to name just a few trends – and the legal industry has to adapt to these changes or it will find itself left behind.
Those essential, human skills I mentioned earlier – are the skills a lawyer needs more than ever. Not just to stand out, but to adapt to the changing client base and to stay relevant.
Lawyers have to become trusted advisors, and that’s what I teach all my clients.
What are your thoughts on billable hours, their impact on the profession, the professionals, and the clients?
This is a subject I am very passionate about. Anyone who has read my articles or my posts on LinkedIn will know how I feel about billable hours: they are a disaster in every way. They negatively impact every aspect of a lawyer’s life: whether it’s the stress and pressure of reaching unrealistic targets that lead to poor mental and physical health, or the waste it creates when lawyers have to write off time in their bills, or the barrier it creates between them and their clients – the lack of transparency and complaints.
One of the unforeseen consequences of billable hours is that lawyers have lost the ability to articulate the value we bring to clients and their matters. A client comes to us with a matter; we give them our charge-out rates and estimate the fee based on previous matters.
What we don’t do is spend time with the client fully understanding their desired outcome and why it is important to them, so that we can help them understand how their matter could play out, what to look out for, how we deal with each of the various stages and why what we do is so important to the outcome.
We put the client on the clock as quickly as possible and the client has to think twice about calling for advice when they know each call is going to add to the bill.
What’s worse is that we know what is coming when the final invoice comes in wildly over the estimate: a client complaint and a write-off.
Fixed fees – which I see more and more – and value pricing, which is something I’m really excited about, can help solve so many problems the legal profession is experiencing, but it takes desire and change management – and change isn’t something the legal industry is comfortable with.
But I firmly believe that change is coming and the billable hour will eventually die out.
Lastly, for anyone wanting to start out as a consultant, what 3 pieces of advice do you have?