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If You're Pitching, Who's Catching?

by Ed Poll

Couplings, like metaphors, create mental pictures that help us to better understand concepts. For example: "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage." Well, that was an earlier era.

Then we have billing and collecting. They go together. Can't have one without the other. Can't collect until you bill, which is why prompt billing is so important.

In order to collect without delay or resistance, billing must show value — in the eyes of the beholder, the client — and must communicate to the client whether and how well the objective for the engagement was achieved.

Then, there are pricing and engaging. Other than pro bono work, getting an engagement usually first requires setting a price on the work. I'm reminded of this because of a recent pricing conversation I had with a client I'm coaching. Her prospect asked her to do some work and, obviously, wanted to know how much it needed to invest to achieve the desired result.

Every lawyer must consider three issues to answer that question from a prospect. First, will you be able to achieve the goals of the client? Second, how will you be able to improve the client's condition; in other words, what will be the value to the client? Those two elements are within your control to evaluate and communicate.

The third issue requires an evaluation by the client as to whether he can and wants to afford the engagement. Some will say that there is always money available if we, as lawyers, can demonstrate the value to the client.

I would like to believe that because then the issue of engagement is in our control. If we can demonstrate only sufficient improvement (value) to the client, we will be engaged and our growth will be determined by us, not by others.

However, there seems to be something missing in the analysis. Perhaps the missing element is our "target." In order to make the trajectory complete, we need to properly define our target market: the people who can best understand and use our service.

The way to do that is to focus on the demographics, occupation, location, financials and other characteristics of clients who will give you the work that you want. You thus define what your practice really is (or should be) and who best can use your services. That can change over time, as your skills and interests evolve, the economy changes and other factors come into play.

Learn where to find your target market and let prospects know that you can provide what they need. No one tactic will cover all communication opportunities. Use approaches consistent with your comfort zone, your creativity, your availability and your budget.

If you can put yourself in front of the people who need you the most, have the money to improve their condition, and are emotionally able to engage others to help them, you will increase your personal satisfaction and your revenue dramatically by focusing on clients who will give you the work that you want.

Copyright 2011. Edward Poll. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Edward Poll.

About The Author

Ed Poll principal of LawBiz Management Company, is a nationally recognized coach, law firm management consultant, and author who has coached and consulted with lawyers and law firms in strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development. Mr. Poll has practiced law on all sides of the table for 25 years-- as a corporate general counsel, government prosecutor, sole practitioner, partner, and law firm chief operating officer and been a consultant to small and large law firms for 20 years.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.