Dirty Harry and Business Development

Dirty Harry and Business Development

James R. McCarthy, MS, CPC

Word Count: 493 words
Time to Read: 1-2 minutes

Those of us of a certain age will remember the series of action movies starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector Callahan – a.k.a. “Dirty Harry”

Remember this quote from one of the early films when he had his .44 magnum pointed at a bank robber whose pistol was on the ground near his hand?  Harry was not sure how many shots he had already fired, so he asked the crook - “you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Put another way, do you want the future success of your firm to depend upon luck?

In today’s hyper competitive legal environment, it is essential that the fortunes of your firm are not dependent upon luck, or perhaps the genius of a couple of very talented attorneys.

Business Development Planning is incredibly important whether the process involves small law firm marketing, or large law firm business development activities.  Long term success means identifying your core strengths and matching them up with your best opportunities.  It also means having a deep understanding of your target markets and the key leverage points, or “Centers of Gravity”, that most directly affect that market.

For law firms, the time required can represent a real conundrum.  Success often depends upon revenue tied to billable hours - if your attorneys are spending time planning, they are not generating revenue.

The simplest and proven method to generating business is through referrals.  As we all know, that is the gold standard.  The question is; how else can firms increase the odds of getting additional clients and sharply increasing billable hours?

Successful, effective planning need not be a laborious, time consuming process.  It should, however, be effects-based.  That is, you need to decide - in each phase of your planning process - what the desired effects, or outcomes, need to be.  By concentrating on outcomes, you avoid wasting resources, or fatally misinterpreting the market.

Like Dirty Harry, you need to ask some fundamental questions:

  1. What are the outcomes you want to achieve: e.g., do you want to concentrate on developing new clients, or getting even more revenue from your existing client base?  How much? By when?
  2. Where are the best places to target your efforts?  How will you do it?
  3. Who will be responsible for this process in the firm?

We all remember Inspector Callahan as being extremely effective – and extremely destructive.  A good plan for him was having an extra gun.

Unlike Inspector Callahan, a good strategy for your firm needs a solid, repeatable process: defined outcomes; measures; identifying the right targets, and assigning accountability.  Done right, business development will ensure the long-term success of your clients, and your firm.  Done poorly, or not at all, you risk destroying the sources of your success and placing the future of your firm on forces outside your control – in other words - luck.



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