Ralph O. Williams III

Direct: 818.986.8101 rwilliams@adrservices.com Case Manager:
Ella Fishman
T: 310.201.0010
F: 310.201.0016

ADR Services
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1900 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067-4303

Mediation Tips - Business Development

Shaking Hands - A Tutorial

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Along with good grooming and a nice smile, shaking hands is a key component of a good first impression. It projects your confidence, friendliness and accessibility. Below are handshaking do’s and don'ts.

Handshaking Do’s

1. Extend your right hand with the thumb up.

2. Allow your hand the move up so the web between your respective thumbs and index finger meet.

3. Grip firmly and pump once or twice while making eye contact and exchanging a pleasantry, such as, "Great to see you this evening." 

4. Release your grip after 2 to 5 seconds while continuing small talk.

Handshaking Don'ts

1. Bone crusher. Do not use extra pressure. It says you are trying to dominate, are inconsiderate and hurts the other person.

2. Limp fish / fingers only. A limp or misaligned handshake conveys weakness and lack of confidence. When offered a limp hand or fingers, only grasp with a gentle squeeze and proceed as above.

3. Damp hand. Avoid a damp hand by holding your drink in your left hand. If you have sweaty palms, give your hand a quick, unobtrusive wipe on your pants or skirt when you see a handshake coming.


The One-One-One Rule

All successful lawyers in the "new normal" must learn to develop business. The goal is to create and maintain mutually beneficial relationships. The secret is simple: One-One-One.

One contact per day. Send an email, write a letter or make a phone call. Start at the front of your Rolodex (old school) or your Outlook Contact List and work to the end, annotating and updating as you go.

One face-to-face per week. Have breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee or drinks, go for a walk or visit the gym with a colleague, friend or potential client.

One event per month.  Attend a bar meeting, affinity group, MCLE, trade show/conference, speak to a group or write an article.

OK, you’re making contacts, but what are you going to say? Ask questions that start with "what", "how" and "tell me," e.g., "What's going on with you?", "How can I help you?", "Tell me about your practice."  For more on conversation starters, click “Reply” and request my ADR tip entitled, "Mastering the Art of Small Talk."

When the conversation turns to you, have your "elevator speech" ready. An "elevator speech," named for the time it takes to ride a few floors, is a short statement about what you do and why it is valuable to the person hearing it, e.g., "I litigate business and intellectual property cases, helping our clients collect money they’re owed and protect their brands."

Business development is a process, not an event. It is better to do something now and keep revising it, rather than wait for the perfect plan. Or as the Nike commercial tells us, "Just do it."


The Elevator Speech/Pitch

Last month we talked about the elevator speech as a quick conversation starter at an event or on the phone. Here are the elements and details to work up an effective elevator pitch that will open a conversation and make you more memorable.

1. Identify your goal. Make contact with clients and referral sources. Get them to ask, "Tell me more."

2. Explain what you do.  "We litigate real estate matters for developers."  Or "I specialize in suing/defending insurance companies in life, health and disability cases."

3. Communicate your value proposition. Why should someone hire you? What makes you unique? How can you help them? Think about price, availability, assets, results and experience. "We are the largest firm in our specialty.” “Our small size allows us to make attractive, alternate fee arrangements."

4. Engage a question. You want to keep the conversation going. "Tell me about your practice." "Has your firm tried alternative fee arrangements?"

5. Put it all together. "We litigate real estate matters for developers. Our small size allows us to make attractive alternate fee arrangements. Tell me about your practice" NB: Always have a business card ready. The best way to have someone ask you for a card is to ask for theirs first.

6. Practice. Practice in front of a mirror or with a colleague. Without practice, you will speak too fast or sound unnatural. You want to generate interest and inquiry. Your enthusiasm for your practice is contagious.


Mastering the Art of Small Talk

Just in time for the holiday season, we take a look at mastering the art of small talk.  Small talk is the social grease that keeps new, delicate and/or uncomfortable situations moving.  It opens doors and builds rapport with strangers, relatives and friends.  Below are 10 tips to make you a comfortable, proficient small talker.

  1. Introduce yourself. Walk up and say "Hello, I'm John Smith." If you can't remember someone's name try, "Hi, I'm Jane Smith, help me remember your name." You are starting a conversation, don't just start talking; wait for a response.

  1. Joining a group. Politely stand with the group and observe the conversational flow. Introduce yourself at a natural break. Contribute and build on the discussion subject. Do not attempt to take over the group.

  1. Remembering names. When you meet someone say their name, "Margaret, it's so good to meet you" and take a mental picture of them with a name badge. When you leave, say their name again, "Margaret, it was good talking with you."

  1. Get the conversation going. Ask open-ended questions that start with "What?", “How” and “Tell me”, e.g. "What do you think of tonight's speaker?", "How's your family?", "Tell me about your new firm." Compliment the person, “What fabulous shoes! Where did you get them?”

  1. Listen more than you talk. People think you are interesting when they are talking about themselves. Concentrate on your conversation partner. Do not look around the room; it feels like you are trying to find a more important/interesting person to talk to.

  1. Act as if you are comfortable. People who look ill at ease make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not.

  1. Stick to neutral subjects. You cannot go wrong with current events, travel, sports, arts and entertainment.

  1. Avoid controversial subjects. No good comes from off-color jokes, sexual references, religion, politics or your personal medical situation.

  1. Breaking away. When the small talk winds down, it’s time to gracefully move on. Good exit lines: "It was great talking with you, I think I'll go get another drink," "Enjoy the program, I'm going to find my seat" and "Please excuse me, I have to use the facilities."

  1. Relax, enjoy yourself. People are interesting and you are terrific.


Invert the Problem

The 19th Century mathematician, Carl Jacobi said, "Invert, always invert." Charlie Munger of Munger Tolles and Berkshire Hathaway, updated the thought, "...it is the nature of things that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backwards."

Inversion turns the problem upside down. Here’s how it works. State the problem in question form: “How do I develop business?” Then invert the question: “How do I make sure I will never get any business?”

Answer the inverted question:

1. Do mediocre work.
2. Don’t respond to calls or email.
3. Be short and difficult with people.
4. Stay in the office. Never go to Bar, MCLE or interest group events.
5. Don’t develop marketable expertise or publish anything.

Exploring the answers to the inverted question yields four benefits:

1. You identify pitfalls that you might not have thought about.
2. You create a “to do” list, usually the opposite of the actions that promote failure.
3. The tasks’ priorities emerge and you see where to apply effort.
4. Having faced and mapped failure, you can refocus your energy on success.

Inversion thinking is a risk management technique. There may be significant fallout from seeking success, but there is very little risk in preventing failure. Stated another way, it is far easier to avoid stupidity than it is to create genius.


Reluctant Networkers

Historically, lawyers are reluctant networkers. They are uncomfortable,  feel manipulative and inauthentic. These common feelings come from the premise that networking is about advancing our own interests at others’ expense.

Make no mistake, networking is good for business. You meet new clients at trade shows, learn about opportunities at Bar events and broaden contacts at social functions.

The key to successful networking is forming mutually beneficial relationships, i.e., "I'm here to help you achieve your goals, not exploit you to achieve mine." Be prepared at your next networking opportunity with these three tools.

1. After introductions, ask the other person open-ended questions that start with "what, how or tell me."

2. Listen to the answers, don't just wait for your turn to talk. You learn much more with your ears open and your mouth shut.

3. When asked what you do, have a short "elevator speech" ready to keep the conversation going.


The Meeting Before the Meeting

People wonder why they do not influence a meeting's decision-making process. The answer might be as simple as, they missed the "meeting before the meeting."

Much of the useful work is done before the meeting starts. Arrive early, chat with colleagues, share ideas, get the lay of the land, find a good seat and make friends and allies. Stay late, debrief the meeting, chat more and strengthen relations.

Remember, the social and political aspects of the meeting are just as important as the business agenda.




Copyright © , Ralph O Williams III
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