Personal letters are as good as newsletters
September 19, 2008
Most lawyers struggle with their individual business development because they don’t reach enough people, or they do not contact those people they know frequently enough.
Neither issue is hard to fix. Establishing reach is no more difficult than taking a couple of hours to create a comprehensive mailing list of your clients and referral sources. Your mailing/email list would include experts, other lawyers including opposing counsel, former colleagues, plus the other professionals you know— accountants, insurance agents, doctors, dentist, pastor plus your classmates, friends and family. Really, this is your holiday card list. Go through your calendar and add to this list those with whom you were in contact 12-24 months ago, but with whom you have lost contact.
Maintaining frequency is no harder than writing letters every 90 to 120 days talking about your work, or the work you seek, to those who are on your mailing list. There is no need for a formal newsletter; personal letters will do.
The goal of your personal letter is to inform, alert and/or entertain the recipient. Make sure each letter urges recipients to keep you in mind.
Deals, trials or an explanation of recent matters in which you have been involved are suitable topics. An overview of changes in the law that may affect those on your mailing list are interesting, as well.
For example, a group of litigators recently summarized current cases in which they are involved in a letter they sent about 250 contacts. A highly-successful tax attorney I know wrote about changes in the tax laws and enforcement trends several times a year. His letters regularly turned into work. Another experienced trial lawyer who started a mediation practice has filled his calendar using entertaining letters to attorneys— which clearly communicate what he is now doing. This tact takes the most time, but is the most successful. Here are some excerpts from his letters.
The author is Dan Patterson of Denver. The letters communicate on several levels at once, and are some of the best marketing materials I have ever seen:
“Thirty-five years ago, the United States, North Vietnam and South Vietnam took more than a month to agree upon the size and shape of the table around which the Vietnam Peace Talks would occur in Paris. North Vietnam favored a circular table where all sides would appear equal. South Vietnam wanted a rectangular table that would demonstrate there were two distinct sides to the talks. After the negotiations led to peace, the principal negotiators, Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho were awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, although Tho refused the award, maintaining that his country was not at peace.
“When you mediate with me you needn’t worry about the size or shape of the table, we’ve already got that covered and it is non-negotiable. The good news for you is that the recipients for the 2008 Nobel Peace Price have not yet been determined. Settling a case or two might lead to a nomination. I’m looking forward to working with you this year in your peace making efforts. Who knows, there may even be a prize in it for you.”
Another: “In 1777, dueling practices were codified by a group of Irishmen in the Code Duello, which set out 26 rules for duels, providing such details as the time of day that challenges could be received, as well as how many shots or wounds would be necessary to satisfy one’s honor. Parties to a duel typically acted through assistants, who were known as Seconds. Seconds had such responsibilities as setting the time and terms of the duel, loading the pistols, and checking the distance between the duelists. The Seconds were also required, by Rule 21 of the Code Duello, to attempt reconciliation, first without violence, then after a certain number of shots had been fired. The Seconds, then, appear to have been some of the first mediators.
“Please understand that, as a mediator, my lineage may go back to the time of dueling, but I do not follow the Code Duello, other than to work with the parties to attempt reconciliation. No shots will be exchanged, no wounds inflicted, and no parties will be killed. Ah, history might have been so different had I been a Second for either Aaron Burr or Alexander Hamilton. Fortunately, I am available to you to help you and your clients attempt reconciliation. Call me to help you resolve your disputes — before it’s too late.”
Improve your individual business development efforts by sending letters to a great list of contact at least several times a year. The proven result: a greater response than you ever imagined.