In this episode, Steve Fretzin and John Sciaccotta discuss:
- The foundation of John’s love of business development and marketing.
- The different forms of business development.
- Identifying the influencers around you.
- Significant touches and reaching out meaningfully.
- Make friends in the practice of law and establish relationships.
- Success breeds success – a small win can be expanded into even bigger wins.
- Get involved, build relationships, and be active with whatever group you choose to get involved in.
- Marketing and business development happens every day – it is up to you as to how many significant touches you make in a day, a week, or a month.
“You have to identify influencers, people that can refer you legal business, or have control in sending legal work…you have to make an assessment and identify who are those influencers.” — John Sciaccotta
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Show notes by Podcastologist Chelsea Taylor-Sturkie
Audio production by Turnkey Podcast Productions. You’re the expert. Your podcast will prove it.
people, lawyer, business, steve, clients, influencers, meeting, firm, legal, john, relationships, referral sources, bar association, piece, years, marketing, development, philosophy, friends, attorneys
John Sciaccotta, Narrator, Steve Fretzin
John Sciaccotta [00:00]
I really think you have to identify influencers, people that can refer you legal business, or have control in sending legal work.
You’re listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for drilling a successful law practice. Each episode, your host, author and lawyer, coach, Steve Fretzin, will take a deeper dive, helping you grow your law practice in less time with greater results. Now, here’s your host, Steve Fretzin.
Steve Fretzin [00:41]
Hey, everybody, welcome to be that lawyer. I am Steve Fretzin, as the announcer just mentioned, and I hope you’re having a lovely day today. Listen, you know it, I know it. We all know it. You know, the show is about being that lawyer. And it’s about trying to figure out from day to day planning and executing how you’re going to build that book of business. And I can’t think of a better guest than the one I’ve got for you today. You’re in for an absolute treat. No pressure, John. This is the equity partner or one of the equity partners over to firm in Chicago Ehrenberg Gogan. And he’s a guy I’ve known for many years, and just a great guy, great friend, John sakoda, how you doing?
John Sciaccotta [01:18]
Hey, Steve. Great. Thanks for having me today. It’s great to be with you. And thanks for all the great things that you are doing. With your practice and and with your firm. Well, I’m honored to be here.
Steve Fretzin [01:32]
Yeah, I’m honored to have you that trust me, the pleasure is on this side of the this side of the microphone. Yeah, I’m out there hustling trying to help attorneys every day. And, and I know you’re out there hustling to to help not only help attorneys, but also to bring in that business and, and, and you’ve just done an amazing job of it. And so do do my, my audience a solid and give a little background on yourself to
John Sciaccotta [01:55]
you know, Steve, I’m, as you indicated, I’m a member equity member at Ehrenberg Gogan in Chicago, where I practice primarily business, commercial litigation, as well as representing businesses and their owners. And I’ve been doing this for almost 35 years now. And I have to tell you, I’m having the time of my life. I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer since I was five years old. And so you know, it’s, it’s, it’s an exciting time. It’s also a challenging time. But, you know, we are a full service law firm. As I indicated, we represent businesses and their owners in various different areas, including corporate in real estate and tax, estate planning litigation. We have a IP department. So it’s pretty much labor and employment, pretty much full service, representing businesses and their owners, and I’m a member of our litigation group. And I also chair, our commercial marketing group, commercial litigation marketing group. So it’s, we’ve got a lot of things going, and we’re growing, and we’re having a
Steve Fretzin [03:16]
lot of fun. And you mentioned that you wanted to be a lawyer at five years old. What were you arguing with your parents about, like, what candy you’re gonna get? Oh, it’s
John Sciaccotta [03:24]
sort of funny. I, my grandfather, who raised me, my maternal grandfather, who helped raise me, was going to traffic court down at 321, North LaSalle. And he’s trying to help a friend. And I went with him. And I saw the judge and a lawyer interacting, and I walked out of there. And I said, Perhaps someday I’m going to be a lawyer. Wow. And I, I, you know, I’ve never looked back.
Steve Fretzin [03:49]
See, I had the I was getting grilled by my father on a regular basis. And I said, I don’t want to be anywhere near these guys. Give me a hard time. Every time I make a mistake. I’m getting grilled.
John Sciaccotta [04:01]
You know, for me, I was the first person to graduate college in my family. So to be able to, you know, obviously obtain a professional degree was, you know, was was a big deal to the family. And sure, and I’ve always tried to remember that. And I’ve tried and I am very proud to be a lawyer. I think it’s a great honor. Yeah, it
Steve Fretzin [04:24]
- It’s a noble profession. And it’s something that continues to evolve and how people practice law and how people build practices. And John just mentioned, you’ve been, you know, just a prolific networker and business developer in the firm in the Chicago community. At what point did you realize that business development was another piece of law that you wanted to excel in?
John Sciaccotta [04:48]
Well, I was fortunate Steve to have a wonderful mentor in the practice of law, who’s now deceased, a gentleman by the name of Derek Culver. And Dick told me Very early on, he gave me a couple of great pieces of advice. The first piece of advice was to make friends in the practice of law and established relationships. The second piece of advice was that to join the Chicago Bar Association and to become an active member, the third piece of advice was that every year for the first six or seven years, you should double your business. So the first year, if you had $10,000, the second year, it’d be 20. And then 40. And he said, that should be your goal. And he was always famous for saying, wherever you go or in spend money, hand out your business card. Now, obviously, this was many years ago. Now we have email signatures and whatnot. But he said that, you know, hand out your business cards, let people know what you’re doing, let people know that you can be there to help them should illegal need arise. I also had a really good pedigree in terms of my family. My family was in the restaurant business, since 1929, in Chicago, and my grandfather always used to tell me that you’ve got to please the customer. Because you have to make the customer happy. And so those two competing influences ever really been the, you know, the foundation of my, you know, eagerness, and also my really enjoying business development and marketing. It’s something that I enjoy. I love being with people. And those are some of the influences that have sort of scoped you know, my perspective on business development.
Steve Fretzin [06:57]
And what do you say to attorneys that don’t enjoy it, they feel like, it’s just such a drag, and it’s like, I can’t believe I’ve got to lower myself to, you know, go out and sell services, or that I’ve got to, you know, go out and schmooze with people I don’t even want to meet, because I’ve got to somehow get a book, you know, just a real negative. And I don’t think that’s my listeners. But I’m still curious to hear because I’m sure you run into that with with your partner, some of your partners and others that you interact with, you know,
John Sciaccotta [07:25]
business development, and marketing takes many different forms. So I tell people, if you don’t want to go to Bar Association events, or getting involved and not for profits, and sitting on boards and meeting people, there are other ways that you can mark it. One of the best ways, I think, is to write articles, to perform in a podcast, to become, you know, in concentrate in your area of expertise. So I think there’s, there’s many people out there that just don’t like to be out and about and hustling and bustling, in terms of meeting people, but they can certainly, you know, be effective marketers and business developers, by writing by participating and you know, by building a good reputation, because the foundation and the part and parcel of being a great networker business developers, you have to be a very good lawyer. That’s the first thing. Yeah, and I tell all young lawyers that the first five years to 10 years of your practice, you can you can sort of work on the marketing and the business development, but you have to become a good lawyer, because people are going to hire somebody that can satisfy their needs, their legal needs. You
Steve Fretzin [08:49]
know, I’ll just add, for the people that are uncomfortable with business development and going out and networking meeting people, a lot of it has to do with it feeling like a waste of time, because you don’t really know what to do or what to say or how to approach it. And a lot of that is learned. So learn from a mentor, like John, learn from me, listen to the show, read a book, get a coach, get an advisor, whatever. But these are things that can be that you can flip. I mean, one of my favorite things to do, John is to take a really introverted IP attorney, or someone that just really is anti business development and flip them like To me that’s like, you know, I can take someone like you and make them better. But but that’s already someone that’s that’s drunk that’s had the Kool Aid drunk the Kool Aid. It’s someone that has a negative attitude about if I can flip that person. Well, that’s, that’s really interesting.
John Sciaccotta [09:38]
And you know, Steve, there’s so many people out there that should call you because you do a fantastic job. But there’s so many people out there that can be flipped. If they just have an open mind. I’ll tell you there’s a countless number of lawyers that I have met over the years you know, they they’re young lawyers, and they begin to mature and they don’t have a nickels worth of business, and then all of a sudden, the switch flips. And they’re bringing in, you know, a bunch of business. And they’re attracting clients. And in part, it’s because they’ve become good lawyers. And, you know, once they get that itch, and if you can sort of flip the switch is you’re very good at doing. I think it’s in everyone, in everyone, you just have to allow yourself to sort of grow into it. And, you know, training, the great training that you do with your firm, and what you’ve done with so many of your clients, is very helpful to, you know, ignite that switch.
Steve Fretzin [10:44]
Well, I appreciate that. It’s, and it’s a lot of fun, too. And, you know, I think it’s, it’s success breeds success. So if you can get someone over the hump to attend an event, and then get actual business from it, or get a new strategic partner that drives business, just getting a little win to your point, can can then be expanded. It’s just sometimes people need a winner to like even little ones to get a flavor for, it’s like, my son is 14, he’s playing guitar. And I heard him play Blackbird, The Beatles Blackbird. And it was so gorgeous, just listening to him play that song. And I think it ignited something in him that hadn’t been done, you know, from playing, you know, the last year. And I think that’s going to breed him to want to continue to expand and play more guitar. So I think business development is the same way. And it’s just a matter of getting a couple of wins.
John Sciaccotta [11:34]
And it’s just, you know, like you said, you know, it’s a beautiful story about your son, but like you said, once you, once you get a taste of success, it burns your drive, and you become motivated to want to get to the next one, and then the next client, then the next one. I also think for people that are somewhat uncomfortable, a lot of times, it’s easier to go with somebody that is comfortable, and sort of, you know, go together with someone to an event and have someone introduce you to people, because not everyone is comfortable in group settings, not everyone could go into a room that knows no one, and can ice break it and wind up knowing everyone, it’s just, that’s just not the way it is. But I found when I was younger, if I would go along with with another lawyer, an older lawyer, it became very helpful. And I began meeting people and getting involved, you know, I think there’s no substitute for getting involved. You have to get involved. You know, my, but what has helped me immensely is getting involved at the Bar Association, getting involved with not for profit organizations, getting involved in community organizations, serving on boards, being active, making friends, establishing relationships. And, you know, that’s really been the key for me, and what’s worked. And also obviously doing a good job for clients. Because, as we all know, and Steve, I know, you say this all the time, clients can be your best referral sources, we’re sure if you know, and, and we we sometimes lose that focus that you know, your own existing clients, you know, maybe you do one particular area of work for them. But now you’ve got an IP department and they have IP needs. So I’ve done I’ve served as the chair of marketing committees of firms, I’ve gone on many marketing, seminars, it’s something that in business development seminars, it’s something that I really enjoy.
Steve Fretzin [13:56]
And part of that is you’ve developed a philosophy or an approach that has really worked for you. And can you and you’ve already spoken about it, you know, obviously get involved and, and take good care of your clients. I mean, these are these are critical elements. But are there other pieces that you would that like What’s your philosophy, like generally and just share that if you would?
John Sciaccotta [14:17]
You know, Steve, I really think you have to identify influencers, people that can refer you legal business or have or have control in sending legal work, okay, and when you’re young, your peers are not going to be in a position to be in a position to send legal work. But obviously, as you grow and mature, your friends and colleagues and people that you meet, are going to be influencers and are going to be people in a position where they can send legal work. I think you have to make an assessment and identify Who are those influencers? Are they and I can tell you who the influencers have been throughout my career, they have been bankers, I represent banks, they have been accountants, they have been insurance agents. They have been people in public relations. They have been business owners that I have met, I have gotten this, this may seem to be unique. But I’ve gotten business from business owners who have referred me matters that I have not done really much business with.
Steve Fretzin [15:39]
Yeah, so they’re not their lawyer, but they’re still sending you their people.
John Sciaccotta [15:43]
Right. And in part, it’s because I think they like they like me, or they trust me, or they know that I’ll give the client, you know, the best thing that I could do forum and in some, in some cases, it’s telling somebody, maybe something they don’t want to hear. You know, that’s our job as lawyers.
Steve Fretzin [16:03]
But you mentioned but John, real quick, you mentioned influencers, CPAs, bankers, insurance, etc. I think the reality is that they’re not all created equal as a relates to their influence. So are there particular qualities that you’re looking for with a banker with a CPA CPA is to, by the way, kind of get a bad rap? Because I think there’s a few that that really get networking and get, like, how to be an influencer are that they are an influence, and there’s many that are not and, you know, again, it’s just, it’s just not a big part of their business or the way they do things. But what what are you looking for in those qualities?
John Sciaccotta [16:40]
You know, the first thing I’m looking for is people that are good at what they do. They’re highly respected. And they’re reliable. Because those are the people that are either going to control the business or be the servicing partners and clients, and have the relationships with clients where they could say, you know, why don’t you give John a call, you know, his firm is a full service firm, it may not be something that he’ll do, but he’ll steer you in the right direction. Right. And so I’ve tried to and the other part of it is, I’ve had success with what I’ll call is the internal and external marketing of particular firms. And I’ll give you an example. Many years ago, I met this accountant at an accounting firm. And over the years, he’s referred me business, and I’ve referred him business. So I asked him, if he would be if he if he wouldn’t mind introducing me to his other partners in the firm. And he said, Sure, and I then developed relationships with the other partners in his firm by using the influencers relationship to make additional introductions. And it’s almost like a wheel and a spoke, or an octopus, sort of what you know, what marketers would call, you know, the, the connector type relationships. And I learned that many years ago at a seminar I attended in Arizona, that if you can identify the influencer, the influencer usually has many tentacles, that can get you into a broader space. And so I’ve tried to use that effectively as well.
Steve Fretzin [18:30]
Yeah, so I think it’s, it’s so I like that it’s, it’s thinking about the the people skills, the client base, the ability to follow through and execute. And then I’m assuming that they’re also people you like, you know, people that you enjoy spending time with, right, not anybody that’s kind of a rough, you know, rough, you know, kind of person or something that just would turn you off, and then obviously turn off, you know, your clients.
John Sciaccotta [18:57]
Yeah, I mean, you always want to be around people that you like, and you always want to do business with people that you like, oddly, you know, maybe not Adly, maybe just who I am, I’ve always been able to get along with most people. I will say that in my litigation practice, there’s probably over 35 years only been a handful of other lawyers, opposing lawyers that have not become my friends. I just think that’s the way I was brought up in the practice, is to try to make friends now there’s some people you wouldn’t want to be friends with, for whatever reasons, but I’ve always looked at them as you know, potential referring sources and that I could also refer business to them. So it’s, it’s always trying to build a good relationship with someone who you never know. May, you know have a legal need or may refer somebody to you someday. That can really, you know, make a difference.
Steve Fretzin [20:00]
So let’s if you don’t mind taking it a little further. And I don’t want you to give away too much of your secret sauce, but you may. So let’s say you meet an influencer at a bank, and you think this guy’s terrific, and he thinks you’re terrific and you meet for lunch and have a great conversation. How many meetings does it take? And what’s happening in this these various meetings to get across some form of finish line to get some business interacted is at one meetings or three meetings? Is it a year? Or is it six months? Lawyers are interested in knowing from your you know, from someone like yourself? Like what? And I know, it varies, but is there maybe a general a generalization of what you do? That is work to get an influencer to be on the John Dakota team?
John Sciaccotta [20:46]
You know, younger lawyers always asked me this question. Okay. And, you know, everybody wants instant gratification, and an instant return on investment. Steve, there have been some, in some cases, I have met with people over three, four or five years where I never got one nickels worth of business. And then all of a sudden, something came, and they referred it to me, you know, I would say that the average is probably, you know, you know, I’ve gotten business from somebody at the first meeting, I’ve also had to wait, you know, a year or two, it just depends on a couple of things. Number one, they’ve got to like you and trust you. Number two, there has to be a situation that arises and the timing has to be right, for them to be able to send you a piece of business. And you never know, when that timing is, I tell young lawyers all the time, this isn’t necessarily an instant return on investment or gratification type deal. You’ve got to keep, you know, your boots to the ground your ears to the ground, and you just have to keep working at it. And ultimately, something will will click, and you’ll get a piece of business. And, you know, hopefully, you know, it will just continue to build over the years. You know, I started at zero, as I indicated I had, nobody was a lawyer in my family. I didn’t, I went to a firm, I started out at Ground Zero, and I just worked really hard to build it up. And, you know, it’s just a matter of, it’s a matter of really staying the course and understanding that marketing and business development happens every day. And what I always try to tell myself is, how many significant touches do I want to have in a day, in a week, in a month. And significant touches can be an email, a call, a meeting, a lunch dinner, you know, and that could be not only a potential client, but a current client. And also referral sources. I think many lawyers lose sight of the fact that referral sources are sometimes just as good as existing clients, or potential clients, your referral sources can be a real goldmine of opportunity. And for business, so you have to, you have to cultivate that you have to stay in front of them, because there’s a lot of competition, and you have them, you know, I always say to myself, I want them to think of John first. If there’s a legal matter, I’ll do it. If I can’t handle it, I’ll figure it out.
Steve Fretzin [23:42]
And I don’t mean to pick on you a little bit. But I’m going to because you left out one of your secret ingredients, and I’m picking up on it as we’re talking. I know that you really go out of your way to help people. And that’s something that is another part of, you know, touching people. And I don’t mean that in a weird way. But, you know, reaching out in all those touches to build that relationship. I know that you you try to go out of your way to ask them how can I help you or to try to find connections for them talk to talk to that because I you left it out, but I’m not going to allow that.
John Sciaccotta [24:13]
Well, thank you, Steve. I’m grateful for that. You know, I I believe I have, I would say I have a communitarian approach. You know, I believe that if I can help a fellow lawyer, if I can help a fellow client, if I can help someone, and help make the world be a better place, we’re all going to be better for it. I, the greatest reward I have is having somebody from the Bar Association call me and say, Hey, John, I got this issue. Can you help me? Boom, I enjoy helping people. I enjoy making people better. I enjoy helping lawyers enhance their careers and I, I think the hallmark of our Chicago bar Association, where I’m very involved in. I think that’s what it’s done. For me, certainly, it’s been a huge part of my life. And our members. You know, there, there are a lot of times in your firms, when you don’t want to ask a business development question, or you don’t want to ask a marketing question or some other question. But you can go to the Bar Association, somebody at the Bar Association, and you can ask that question. And you’ll get an honest answer. And that’s been very fulfilling and rewarding for me to be able to be in a position now, or, you know, I’ve been a lawyer for a number of years I’m experienced, or I can, you know, give them my impressions, and through my experiences, through the practice of law, and otherwise, yeah, and
Steve Fretzin [25:49]
I’ve always found you to be incredibly helpful in giving. And you and I’ve met multiple times and had lunches together, and I called you up recently, you know, because of something I’m working on with it that I was hoping to get buy in on the Chicago Bar Association, the DEI space, and you couldn’t have been faster or quicker to try to set me up with, with an appointment to talk about it. And if this just, it’s just the way you roll. You know, that’s what I’ve observed.
John Sciaccotta [26:15]
Yeah, you know, and like, Steve, when you called me, I was so grateful that you would be willing to want to participate, that, especially in the DI area, which is really an important area right now, and it’s always has been, but it needs to always be at the forefront. I just was like, boy, if Steve wants to do this, let’s make it happen. And I’m happy to help you always is you have helped me and help so many others. That’s what it’s all about, you know, that’s my philosophy. How people, you know, I guess I’m a giver. You know, there’s givers and takers in life, and, and I’ve always been a giver, and I’m not going to change now,
Steve Fretzin [26:59]
well, but you’ve also figured out how to be a giver, and also to help people reciprocate in a way that never feels salesy or never feels icky. And I think that’s really the key for people that are worried about, you know, asking for business or developing business, you know, be a giver, be authentic, make, make great relationships happen. And you can coach people around to reciprocate without ever feeling weird, right?
John Sciaccotta [27:26]
Yeah, I mean, you know, I always tell, you know, many, many lawyers say to me, and asked me, John, you know, how, how do I ask for business without sounding pushy, or presumptive, or whatever. And I just say, you know, the way I handle it is, I tell people, if I, if I can ever be of help to you legal or otherwise, just let me know, happy to do that for you or your family. And, and that has worked, you know, it’s subtle, but it’s direct, it sends a message, and lo and behold, people call, yeah, you know, or they email and, you know, the other the other part of it, Steve, that I think people lawyers underestimate, is the use of social media and your social media presence. I can’t tell you how many pieces of business I’ve got, by posting something, by commenting on something by being active in social media, don’t sell yourself short. I tell our lawyers at the firm all the time, you know, make sure that you’re you have a social media presence, and a positive social media presence, because people read that they see it. And it works.
Steve Fretzin [28:43]
Ya know, I talk a lot about it too. And, you know, there’s a lot of lawyers pushing back. And, you know, the, the, the key thing is just to get started, I mean, first of all, you know, learn about how to do it, learn the value, talk to people that are doing it, successfully, follow them, talk with them, and then just get started doing something small, it doesn’t have to be I’m doing I think two or three posts a day. And by the way, have helped with that. I mean, I’ve got a team of people putting graphics together and doing stuff like that. But you don’t have to do that you can start with a post a week, you could start with with, you know, something authentic, that you want to say. And one of my clients did that recently. And he ended up with like, 10 or 11,000 views and a ton of comments, because he wrote something really interesting and authentic about some legal language that is sort of outdated and he was kind of, you know, commenting out and and kind of giving it a hard time, which he got that a lot of support from other lawyers to say, Yeah, I hate that language, too. It makes no sense because it’s not 100 years ago, you know, so just just do something, something to get the ball rolling.
John Sciaccotta [29:47]
I think if you’re authentic, and I think if you’re if you’re your hearts in a good place in the right place, and you truly He care, I think that comes across in social media and otherwise. And I think people are, are more likely to reach out to you, if in fact, first of all, they know you, they like you, they trust you. And they feel as if, you know, they can rely upon you and that you’re responsible to through their needs. You know, one of the areas that I know you, you know, I focus in is business divorces, where business and their owners are in disputes. And these are always very hotly contested matters. And, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re draining emotionally and otherwise. And it’s an area where you really have to be there for your clients, because they’re going through, you know, a breakup of a business, you know, a withdrawal of somebody that’s, you know, leaving the business. They’re very difficult situations, and you have to be there. And you, you know, I think one of the hallmarks of it is you’ve got to have some empathy, to understand what’s going through and to guide them through, you know, hopefully a resolution. So, I think that’s another philosophy that I have that has worked.
Steve Fretzin [31:24]
Yeah. Well, John, I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom. I mean, it’s, it’s just, it’s not only refreshing, but it’s also, I think, truly helpful to the to the audience, to hear someone who just gets started from nothing and built it up, and has some really well thought out philosophies about how to do it in a non salesy way, and actually get get real traction and grow it. So people want to reach out to you directly, how do they what’s the best way to reach you?
John Sciaccotta [31:54]
The best way to reach me is either by email, it’s Jay s, ci, at a G D, G. law.com. Or My office number is 312-755-3180. And I’d love to hear from people, even if they just want to talk and run something past me. I’m always available to help and to be a resource. I think that’s, that’s what it’s all about.
Steve Fretzin [32:21]
Well, it’s incredibly generous of you and, and I again, I appreciate you as a friend as a great lawyer is someone that I look up to. And thanks again for just taking your time your valuable time to be on the show and and share that wisdom.
John Sciaccotta [32:34]
Steve thank you for your friendship which means the world to me and thank you for everything that you’ve done tremendously for your clients. And you know, I I highly recommend anyone out there to call Steve and and to confer and consult with him because he will he will certainly help you know happy
Steve Fretzin [32:55]
to do that if there’s a people of interest ambitious attorneys, if you will, that’s that’s my target. So listen, everybody thank you for spending some time with John and I today as always, it’s about being that lawyer someone that everyone’s talking about their whispered about you at the watercooler we’re back in person at water coolers, and be that lawyer someone who’s confident organized in a skilled Rainmaker. Take care everybody be safe be well.
Thanks for listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website fretzin.com. For additional information, and to stay up to date on the latest legal business development and marketing trends. For more information and important links about today’s episode, check out today’s show notes