I regularly speak to audiences of lawyers, accountants and consultants about the challenges of making partner. In my talks I often share the ten lessons that my clients have learnt along their journeys to make partner. In this blog post I am going to share the sixth lesson; make business development part of your day job.

Your ability to win work is a key factor in whether you will make partner.

If you carry on with a senior fee earner’s mindset of aiming to bust your billable targets at the expense of everything else, you’ll never make it to partner. After all, you’ve just proved that you are still not thinking, feeling and acting as if you are a partner. (Another of the 10 lessons) This means that business development needs to be part and parcel of your day job. Otherwise you risk making one of the most critical business development mistakes. Good business development needs momentum.

Business development shouldn’t only be done when your workload is light

It is very tempting to only do business development when your workload is light. Whilst this is a good time to get ahead with business development, it can lead to you being ineffective with your business development. In this this is probably the most common business development mistakes that professionals make. The best type of business development activity is done little and often. Only doing business development every so often – or rarely as is often the case – means you never quite get the momentum up to get the consistent and sustainable results your career progression requires.

How much time should I spend on business development?

The amount of time and types of business development activity you need to do are related to where you are in your career. For example, as a junior fee earner you need to be. Mainly, attending to your network, whilst taking an interest in the business development activities going on around you. If you are on partner track and aiming to build up your own client portfolio then you need to be considering spending at least 3 hours a week on business development. At the end of the day the best frequency of business development activity is one which you can keep up with, even when you are busy with client work. Now, being pragmatic there are often two activity levels for your business development, the non-negotiable activity level, i.e. I can not go below this amount, and the normal activity level.

The non-negotiable business development activity level

This is a business development routine that you can still maintain even if you are crazy busy with client work. It’s the lowest you can go to whilst still being confident you will achieve your new business wins targets 6-12 months from now. This level of business development activity doesn’t need to be the big stuff. After all, small and consistent is the best type of business development activity anyway.

In summary

Treating business development as part of your day job and having a regular business development routine will help you build a partner-sized client portfolio in a time effective way.

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