Law Firm Leadership: Realizing a New Vision for Client Development

by JD Supra Perspectives
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I first heard the term "vision boarding" in a brainstorming session with our firm's marketing team. The idea came to our business development manager after watching Oprah; the episode focused on Oprah's vision board and how it has helped her achieve her professional and personal goals.

When the team mentioned the idea, I initially questioned whether it would resonate with my women clients, but as we talked more about the process, it became clear that the process of working together as a group of women to create our individual vision boards would be meaningful and would enable us to deepen our bonds so that we developed more trust in each other.

I thought more about vision boarding as an idea for a business development event and agreed it would be worth a try. We planned the first vision boarding event in January of 2012, and I hosted around 10 women in that inaugural event where we had the tools to make our boards - glue sticks, scissors, and old magazines. But we had no idea what a vision board should look like or how it could help us. During the event, we discussed our individual goals for the coming year, shared ideas and inspirations, and created our individual boards. At the end of the event, I asked each participant to share her goals for the upcoming year so that we could each support one another in reaching our goals.

I started to get emails and calls from the attendees asking if I could help them to support one of their goals...

Initially, I was doubtful whether this event would have any impact on my business development efforts and whether we would want to even do it again. But, soon after the event, I started to get emails and calls from the attendees asking if I could help them to support one of their goals or connect them to resources that would enable them to fulfill their visions for the year. At that moment, I realized that the vision boarding event created deeper connections among us than we otherwise would have had just from a dinner or theater outing. Little did I know that the vision boarding event would become one of the most impactful marketing events that I convene annually.

When the end of 2012 approached, several women who had attended the inaugural vision boarding event reached out to make sure that I was planning to host the event again because they wanted to attend and bring other in-house women to the event. As soon as they asked and told me their plans to include others, I immediately started planning the 2013 vision boarding event. The second annual vision boarding event had double the attendance of the first event, and the first year's attendees served as mentors to those first-timers in attendance. Everyone talked about their goals for the year throughout the board-making process, and again, it provided us with a way to learn from each other and to start supporting each other in our individual goals for the upcoming year that day and throughout the year.

Now, in its fifth year, this year's vision boarding event had nearly 50 attendees, including some new faces. Women who attend the event rave about how much it helps them focus on their goals and achieve clarity about their purpose for the upcoming year. And each attendee learns how she can support another woman - whether it is helping her find a new car, a new relationship, or a new career path. These vision boarding get-togethers have supported women through their career highs and lows, family challenges, and even weight-loss efforts. More importantly, the camaraderie and trust that has developed from them has enabled me to become a trusted adviser to these women and, importantly, to obtain their legal work.

... the camaraderie and trust that has developed ... has enabled me to become a trusted adviser to these women and, importantly, to obtain their legal work.

Collaborating with the marketing department inspired me to host this event and enabled me to think outside of the box for my marketing efforts. Without joining forces with the marketing team, I would not have even known about "vision boarding," much less have hosted an event solely dedicated to creating a vision board  for my women clients. Moreover, I would not have been able to achieve my personal and professional goals that I set each year without having the daily reminder of my goals on my vision board . I keep my vision boards in my office and look at them daily. I know that the focus on my goals from constant reflection at my board helps me to stay focused on what I want to achieve and encourages me to use the boards as an accountability tool to stay true to my goals so that I can achieve them.

Since I hosted my first vision boarding event, I continue to partner with the marketing department to push the bounds of client development activities from the traditional dinner outings to more creative experiences that my clients enjoy. Thanks to the marketing department, I now host a suite every year at a monster truck rally where parents can bring their kids to see the monster trucks compete while having a quieter space to interact with each other during the competition. I also host a book club for women clients where I choose a book that I send to my women clients to read over the summer; we then convene  to discuss the book selection in the fall. The book club provides another opportunity for me to deepen my connection to my clients while we share our perspective on a book of interest to women in business. Whether it was Lean In, Option B, or The Confidence Code, the book we read has allowed us to learn from each other about ways the book impacted and inspired us and how we can achieve our career success using lessons from the book.

Our firm's marketing department helped me think differently about business development...

As a lawyer, I tended to think about business development from a narrow lens - largely driven from watching my peers doing the same types of things as client entertainment. Our firm's marketing department helped me think differently about business development and pushed the boundaries of what I envisioned as an acceptable client development activity. Most importantly, the marketing department helped me to trust my instincts and be comfortable in planning events for my clients that were different than the standard round of golf or business lunch. Using the creativity of the marketing department and their support for curating interesting events, I have been able to develop my brand as a lawyer who also cares deeply about my clients, personally and professionally, and who wants to help all women succeed in their personal lives and in the business world.

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[Audra Dial is the managing partner for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP's Atlanta office. Ms. Dial is an experienced litigator practicing in the firm's nationally recognized patent litigation team, in addition to handling complex commercial litigation involving technology.]

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