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  • Writer's pictureLisa Dawson

The Coach: From solo to firm: Part two | Gary Mitchell

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

If you are following my column then you will recall that in part one of this series I covered capacity and building your team. In this, part two of From solo to firm, I go into business development, marketing and branding,

Business development: What is it? I will start by telling what it’s not. It’s not pushing things on people that they don’t need. It’s not selling. It*s all about relationships: building them, cultivating them and nurturing them.

So how do you do that most effectively? Follow my proprietary methodology that I’ve created over the past 12 years working with lawyers. It’s called. TST'" :

• T = Targeted

• S = Strategic

• T = Tactical


Before you go out there in all directions shouting your message from the top of the mountain, take some time to fully understand your target market. You can do this in many ways. If you already have clients — the type of clients you want more of — you can always ask them. I always say, ask your clients and they will tell you everything you need to know in order to find more just like them.


• Focus on the “ideal” client profile (identify your AAA clients).

• Learn as much as you can about them, their challenges, their opportunities, etc.


• Where are they?

• What associations do they belong to?

• What events do they attend?

• How else can you reach them?

• What do they read?

Strategic Again, this is about maximizing your time and realizing the best possible results, or return on your investment (ROI). That starts with having a plan. When I say “plan,” I don’t mean you have to go through an exhaustive process and take months to create a lengthy document. Keep it simple. Here is a basic outline:

The plan

• Start with your “end-game” and think BIG;

• Set goals;

• Set deadlines (accountability-moving forward);

• Longer term/mid term/short term/today;

• Use check lists and to-do lists;

• Make notes on progress.


These are about the actual steps you take to follow your strategy to reach your goals. Sometimes it’s not about the “what,” that part you may have already. Then it’s really about the “how.” Depending on your skills, abilities and what you like to do, these may include:


• Speaking at conferences;

• Hosting educational seminars/webinars;

• Networking;

• Social media;

• Community involvement;

• Writing;

• Blogging.

You may already be using some of these tactics, but with a few little tweaks, you could be enjoying much better results and a better ROI.

It is my experience that by far the most effective tactic or strategy is what I call “educational marketing.” That is speaking at conferences and hosting workshops, seminars and webinars. The reason for this is clear. You are not trying to sell anything. You are providing your audience with valuable information while at the same time demonstrating your knowledge and expertise.

Now, I recognize that not everyone enjoys getting up and speaking in front of people. Fair enough. Then put pen to paper and identify the best opportunities for you to write articles, columns and blogs.

Marketing: What is it?

Marketing is about building relationships as well. But it’s on the broader scale aimed at your target audience as a whole. It may include: Advertising, firm social media, sponsorships and events.

To be most effective

Whatever you are doing to market the firm, follow the same TST*" approach to marketing as you are now doing with business development. And, to enjoy even greater results, align your marketing efforts with your business development. That means that wherever you are advertising or sponsoring or hosting events, ensure that you and your people are out there face-to-face. That way they see your firm name, and then they have the opportunity to put a face to the firm when they meet you or one of your team members.


I advise you to consider creating a brand for your firm. Not just your own name. At some point down the road you may consider selling the firm, and it will be about more than you personally. Moving the brand of the firm forward will grow in recognition, adding to its value. This has also been a trend over the last several years where, instead of using personal names, lawyers are choosing to use a name that speaks to their values, practice area, service philosophy, etc. Going from solo to firm will require a bunch of legal things to set up. If you set them up now with the brand, and decide later to sell, you won’t have to go to the expense of a rebranding.

To be clear, branding is not just a logo or a name. A good brand speaks to your target audience and conveys your mission, your values, your integrity and your service offering. It can help you stand out from your competition. Some examples include: Streamline Legal Services LLP; Freedom Legal Services; Peak Law Group LLP; Convergent Law; etc. You get the point.

Follow these tips and strategies and you will save a lot of pain and heartache by not making the same mistakes so many do when they go from solo practice to building a firm. I wish you every success.

This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one: The Coach: From solo to firm: Part one.

Mitchell is a strategic business coach working with law firms across Canada. He specializes in leadership, transition, HR, business development and practice management. He is the author of two books, the latest being, Raindance II: A Blueprint for growing your practice.

Gary can be reached at or 604-669-5235.

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