Kelli Proia is a recovering attorney, dedicated to helping lawyers become great business people through her company, Lawducate, a business school for lawyers.
How did you get into your field?
Before starting Lawducate, I was an intellectual property lawyer for 16 years. Nine years working in-house for large, multi-national companies taught me how to practice law, but nothing about marketing and selling my legal services. I was in for a rude awakening when I opened my own law firm in 2009. I had no idea how to get clients.
I learned everything I could about building a business. Once I started to understand marketing and sales, I started to help some attorney friends with their business problems. One thing led to another, and I decided to make teaching business skills to lawyers my full-time job.
What are you most often asked to speak about at conferences and trade shows?
I have 2 signature talks:
- Client Happiness: Walk a Mile in their Shoes
This talk focuses on the important role customer service plays in a law firm. I personally believe that customer service is the most overlooked marketing strategy for law firms today. Lawyers have the power to make their clients happy or sad. It’s a super power that can make or break a practice. Make clients happy and they will continue to hire you and recommend you to everyone they know. Unhappy clients won’t hesitate to complain about you to everyone everywhere. Investing in client happiness is a law firm’s best competitive advantage.
- Natural Born Sellers: Why Lawyers Make the Best Salespeople
Believe it or not, lawyers are the best salespeople in the world. In every court room in America, the prosecution and defense work hard to “sell” their version of events to a judge or jury. Today, Lawyers all over the world are “pitching” their solution to a legal problem to their clients, opposing counsel and senior partners. The truth is lawyers are great sales people. They just don’t know it. With a little training, lawyers can tap into their inner-salesperson for the benefit of their practices and careers.
If you could give just one piece of advice to others in your field, what would it be?
Stop using the term “business development”. Call it what it is: sales.
I liken the legal industry’s use of the term “Business Development” to calling Voldemort “He Who Shall Not be Named” in the Harry Potter series. People are so scared, no one will say Voldemort’s name. Lawyers dislike sales so much they will not say the word.
But Dumbledore says it perfectly: “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases the fear of the thing itself.”
Don’t give in to the fear (especially when lawyers are the best salespeople on the planet!)