For young attorneys looking to generate new business, it may help to stop thinking about “Building a Book” and start thinking about just “Getting a Case”.
The “Book of Business”, a daunting, interesting phrase. Every lawyer talks about it. It is ever present in the legal business, in any law firm. He has a big “book”. She has built a nice “book”. He has a portable “book” and is looking to make a lateral move. You need to build a “book” or you will never be a partner. I need a “book”. You need a “book”. “Book”, “Book”, “Book.” And, so on. But, what does that mean?
The “Book” – it describes, or implies, highly successful attorneys who carry a few large loyal clients around in their pockets who generate reams of cases year after year after year. And that is the reality for some attorneys – most large firms have attorneys who have such books – insurance carriers or private clients who provide an ongoing flow of repeat work. And that is wonderful.
But, for a great many attorneys, including myself, it is not about the “Book” as defined above. Rather, it is about the ability to consistently generate work, one case at a time, from a variety of sources, year in and year out. I have a nice group of cases right now, from a variety of sources both inside and outside my firm. But, most of those cases will be gone a year, or even three months, from now, to be replaced by the next nice group of cases from a variety of sources. Is that a “Book of Business”? I don’t know. But, it is a flow of good work for me, for my associates and for my firm. Let’s call it a “book” I am currently reading, to be replaced with the next book when I am done reading the current one. That’s my “book”! And, I hustle all the time to keep that “book” refilled with new cases.
My “book” ebbs and flows. Sometimes, there are lots of new cases in my “book”; other times, the “book” runs low, needs to be refilled and I am laying awake at night worrying. There are very good years with big fat “books” (think, big hard-bound Russian novels) and there are ok years with thinner books (think, trade paperback spy novels). But, I have found that if I continue to hustle and work hard, my “book” is always there – there is always another case.
For lots of attorneys, I suspect, for most, its not 20 cases from one source, its 20 cases from 20 different sources. And they get those 20 cases, one case at a time! But, 20 good cases is 20 good cases, no matter where they come from.
For many attorneys, especially young attorneys, it just too daunting, too overwhelming, to think about “building a book”. Just seems to difficult to do, so they do nothing, year after year after year. I suggest it is much better to think in terms of “getting a case”. Just get a case, sign it up, deposit the retainer, add it to your case list, pat yourself on the back – then get the next case, sign it up, deposit the retainer, add it to your case list, pat yourself on the back, – then get the next, then get the next. One case at a time, one client at a time! Next thing you know, you are keeping yourself busy with your own “book” of cases and pounding on the partnership door. Every successful rainmaker will tell you they are always hustling for the next case, then the next case, then the next case,…… And so it goes.
So, for those attorneys who want to generate their own work and build their own practices, I say: Forget “The Book”, Just get a Case!