lawyer sitting at his deskAs the economic downturn continues to take its toll on the law profession, it is especially important for attorneys to use the most effective business development strategies.

If your law firm isn’t growing as much as you’d hoped, one of the most important ways to change this is to practice effective marketing strategies.

At the very least, your law firm will retain its financial security by actively pursuing client development.

With this goal in mind, here are a few tips for increasing your practice’s business:

1. Be realistic and think long-term. Train associates to generate work early on, so the benefits of their experience can be felt later. Business development takes time to produce results, so don’t expect changes to come overnight.1

2. Don’t neglect your current clients. You are far more likely to make developments with people you know than with those you don’t. A good way to get started is to offer a free meeting to learn more about a client’s business needs.2 Even if it doesn’t lead to new engagements, it will at least build your relationship and help protect you from competitors.

3. Incentivize your attorneys. If you don’t already, start compensating lawyers for finding clients as well as for billable hours.1 The kind of creative thinking that comes along with this added task will eventually integrate the two kinds of work into one seamless function.

4. Provide training. Business development can be taught and training your lawyers in this skill will demonstrate your support for them and emphasize how important it is for the success of your organization. The exceptional service that your attorneys will be able to provide from this training will give your firm a competitive edge over firms without business development training programs. 2

5. Provide financial support. Developing client relations can be costly; dinners, donations, and other expenses will add up. Giving your associates access to a marketing budget will encourage them to increase their efforts, which in turn will pay off in the new opportunities they can then generate.1

6. Make a point to encourage business development. Ask your attorneys what they are doing to market themselves and the firm. Providing positive feedback and sharing your own client development success stories will give them encouragement and advice.1 Getting them involved in your own pitches for new business will allow them to learn from your expertise.

7. Include it in your evaluations. If you add client development to your evaluation process and track it annually, this step will show that you believe it to be a valuable component of the business and will encourage your attorneys to perform well.1