The Death of the "Old Boys Club" Business Model by Lisa Goldstein
Business has only two basic functions-marketing and innovation. -Peter Drucker
A few years ago, I attended a women lawyers' conference and the topic of rainmaking arose. One of the young women volunteered her rainmaking strategy. She had several friends in the business world. She was going to wait a decade or so until her friends were in a position to hire her. The group thought her plan was promising. After all, isn't that how our senior partners developed business?
Forty years ago, when your senior partners were building their practices, the "Old Boys Club" business development model worked fabulously. There were a little more than 4,000 lawyers in Philadelphia. Lawyers tended to be generalists, working in one location. Forty years ago, if your friend owned a business, the chances are he would be a good client for your firm.
Currently, there are more than 14,000 lawyers in Philadelphia. A multifaceted world has led to complex laws necessitating law practice specialization and multi jurisdictional law firms. The chance that your friends are currently situated in positions where they are the decision makers at the type of client that makes sense for your law firm are slim. Even if you wait ten years for your friends to grow into those positions, the odds are, they still won't be in the right position to hire you.
In order to be a successful rainmaker, instead of looking at where your friends are today, you need to identify where your clients are today. Your business development efforts should be focused on building relationships within their networks.
How on earth are you going to do that? Make a list of your departments' clients. Add to that list all of the clients with whom you would like to work. Find out the trade associations or organizations to which these individuals belong. Next, attend their meetings.
However, you can't just attend a meeting once and expect to develop relationships. You need to join groups with the purpose of taking on an active role within the organization. As you become involved, not only will you develop more relationships, but you will get to know your clients better and understand their business challenges.
One thing does still ring true about the "Old Boys Club" model. The model only worked if once you developed a relationship, you cherished it. The relationships were mutually beneficial. You referred someone business and they would refer you business back. As you start to grow your business, keep those principals in mind. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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