Reactivating Former Clients Across the Miles: Get on a Plane–FAST

Lawyers with global practices often lose touch with former clients, especially if there’s geographic distance.  After all, it’s much easier to maintain a personal relationship with a client that you can see regularly over dinner. 

The international lawyers that I coach on client development often describe their former clients wistfully like, “I used to get lots of lucrative work from Mr. X, but he lives in London (or Hong Kong or Buenos Aires) and I live in New York (or Bogota or Sydney).  Mr. X hasn’t called me, and I have not seen him in a long time.” 

My answer?  If the client is important to you, then get on a plane–FAST!  The longer that you wait to rekindle the relationship, the harder it will be to do so.  Fly to see the client (on your own dime) and spend time touring the client’s facilities–for no charge.  Arrive prepared to present something of value, such as copies of a white paper on a relevant topic.  Give free advice while you are there by answering any questions that come up. In other words, remind them of how helpful you are–and remind them how much they miss having you as their lawyer. 

Clients from cultures that highly value personal relationships will particularly appreciate your effort, although it may take more than one visit to nurture your relationship back to health.

Make this gesture even if they are working with a competitor firm; relationships can sour, and the client may begin searching for replacement counsel.  You want to be in the front of that former client’s mind.

If your law firm won’t pay for your trip, do so yourself.  You will benefit in the long run.

Of course, there are less expensive ways of getting back in touch with former clients, like sending handwritten notes and the like. But nothing makes as much impact as an in person visit–especially if the lawyer does so at the lawyer’s cost and initiative.  Although you may not want to fly across the globe for every former client, do it when appropriate as a powerful client development tool.

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