There are rainmakers in most law firms that impress with their selling skills, but to many lawyers selling is an anathema—a frequent comment heard from lawyers is that they did not become a lawyer to do selling. This is not surprising because if you consider the qualities and attributes of a lawyer they are poles apart from that of a salesperson.


  • Lawyers are highly analytical, rather understated, risk averse, considered, reserved and used to working in a regulated environment;
  • Salesmen are characterised by being more opportunistic, extrovert and greater risk takers.

It does not have to be this way as a few small successes can turn a cautious lawyer into a confident business developer. For many lawyers, all it needs is an understanding of how the sales process works, a willingness to try and for a few positive experiences.

This precedent taken from Lexis®PSL Practice Management contains top selling tips to help lawyers develop sales skills and build confidence.

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Tip What should you do How can following this tip help you?

Develop rapport and empathy with the person you are meeting.

Show interest and curiosity—ask plenty of questions and try to develop the conversation, particularly where there is common ground or a mutual interest.

Be as prepared to have a conversation about personal interests as one about business.

Some lawyers believe all conversations should be about business but this is a mistake. People like to talk about their hobbies and their family, so join in.

Do not be put off by the word ‘no’.

Many prospects that become clients will have said no directly or indirectly several times before giving an instruction.

The best sales people will usually say they are not perturbed by being told no and have taken years to convert some contacts into clients.

Do not be afraid of the ‘s’ word.

Do not be intimidated by the word ‘sales’ or by the fact you are selling.

The act of selling is merely helping someone to solve a problem.

Compliment achievements.

Use a little flattery, eg mentioning you saw they did really well at a recent awards evening, or that you have heard they have been promoted and taken on more responsibilities which you think is well deserved.

Compliments usually goes down well and show you are interested in them.

Be positive and enthusiastic.

When you are talking to a prospect display enthusiasm for your topic. Show interest in working with them and be positive about the opportunity to build a new successful relationship.

People are drawn to these personality traits and are reassured by a confident manner.

Listen more than you talk.

It is very important to really listen to what the prospect is saying. If you are a naturally talkative person you will find this difficult to do, but it is worth trying to change your ways.

Do not cut across the person you are trying to sell to.

People like to feel that they have been listened to. If the prospect has 70% of the air time, they are likely to say it was a good meeting. If they only have 30% of the air time they will not be so positive.

There is always an instruction beyond the one you can see.

Ask yourself, and your clients what percentage of their legal services budget you have. It will invariably be less than 100% which means someone else is also getting their legal work.

Treat existing clients as prospects in the sense of showing curiosity—ask questions about what their next big project is or what keeps them awake at night.

Winning additional business from existing clients is easier than winning new clients.

Show pride in what you do and who you work for.

Always try to be a dignified and enthusiastic ambassador of your firm. Do not refer to your firm or your colleagues negatively.

Talking negatively about your firm or colleagues is unprofessional. It will put off your client or prospect, eg it will make them think if you are saying things like that about your firm or colleagues, what will you say about them?

Use your hobby.

If you establish you have a hobby in common with the prospect, generate a different level of conversation with them by talking about it.

Talking about a hobby with like-minded people helps build relationships quickly, often more quickly than formal business conversations.

Do not talk negatively about your competitors.

Show respect for rivals.

When developing a relationship with a prospect, acknowledge they will have relationships with existing suppliers, that you respect this but you know there can be occasions when people need the help of others, whether for a specialism, for additional capacity or a second opinion.

Talking negatively about your competitors can make clients and prospects feel uncomfortable. You do not know what their relationship is with them—they may even be friends.

Reflect the actions of your prospect.

If your prospect is reserved, do not be too extroverted. If they are very serious, do not make light quips. Observe their body language and make sure yours is in sync.

People often feel more comfortable with people they think are just like them.

Body language is a key aspect of communication— your body language will reveal how you are feeling towards the prospect and vice versa. Mirroring body language is a way of building rapport and making people feel at ease with one another.

Avoid hard selling.

Use examples of work you have done for similar clients in similar situations rather than trying to overtly promote your services. Let them ask about your services.

People do not like to feel pressurised.

Be persistent—very persistent.

If you do not achieve the outcome you want from a meeting with a prospect do not give up and simply write it off as a failure.

One study found that sales are often made after eight contacts but many salespeople give up after five attempts—stick with it.

Measure your selling activities.

Manage your pipeline and ensure you record every step so you can assess trends and work out what activity or approach is having the best results.

The adage ‘what gets measured gets done’ is often proven.

Look the part.

Think about how you look and how you are dressed— are you portraying the image?

How you look is very important. The best performers are always very well dressed, even when there are no planned meetings, because they always want to be ready for any opportunity.

It really is a numbers game.

Keep a record of all your business development activity to monitor your statistics.

There are powerful statistics to support this—if you are not getting enough instructions, it means you are not having enough business development meetings. If you are not getting enough meetings you need more contacts. It is all about simple maths and probabilities.

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