One of my clients asked me how long it should take to build a book of business from scratch. The consultant's answer is 'it depends'. The realists answer is 'longer than you want it to'. The pragmatists' answer is 'anywhere from 18 to 36 months if you are disciplined, consistent and strategic. Longer if its not a priority for you every day.
But her question is a good one and deserves some understanding. In my experience, law firm leaders expect an attorney's book of business to grow quickly. Often, this expectation is held without strong marketing and client development training and support systems in place. It's not unusual to see a year go by and mounting frustration on both the leadership's part and the attorney's part that more business has not been brought in.
But is this a fair expectation?
Let's look at some common metrics and try to answer this question. In most industries, it is understood that there is roughly a 10:1 ratio of attempts to success. In my experience, it's no different in law firms. That is, for every ten 'cold' calls or pitches you make to a prospective client, one will emerge into a serious discussion about retaining your services. And of the ones that do get some degree of traction (IE. a proposal is requested, a meeting agreed to, etc.) only about 30% of these will actually close.
So, if you do the math, the business development activity level required to build a book of business from scratch is monumental. In my experience, attorneys with all the tools in place (and this is rarely the case) will begin to see results from a consistent business development program in between 18 and 36 months.
In my opinion, law firm leaders should align their expectations with the reality of the sophisticated complex sales paradigm of professional service sales. And, then support their attorneys with the guidance and tools in order for them to be successful.