This article first appeared in Marketing the Law Firm, an ALM/Law Journal Newsletters publication reporting on the latest and most effective strategies for Chief Marketing Officers, Managing Partners, Law Firm Marketing Directors, Administrators, and Consultants.

The article is adapted from Yuliya LaRoe’s upcoming book: “Make It Rain Your Way: How Smart Lawyers Become RainMasters Without Losing Their Soul,” coming in 2024.

Sam, a litigation partner at a large law firm, was absolutely brilliant in the courtroom. His skills at navigating complex legal issues, incisive cross-examination abilities, and impeccable oratory skills made him a superstar among his peers.

Yet, for all his courtroom prowess, Sam faced an ironic struggle. Despite being a brilliant litigator, Sam’s book of business was not what one would expect of someone with his track record.

His Achilles’ heel? Networking — or, more specifically, his philosophy on maintaining his professional network.

Sam’s approach to networking was pragmatic, bordering on transactional. He reached out to prospective clients only when the timing was opportunistic — when he knew they had a litigation case on their hands. While this strategy had an immediate, apparent logic, it ignored the subtleties and nuances that underpin successful, long-term relationships.

This approach put Sam at a disadvantage. Most clients saw through this tactic feeling more like a transaction rather than a valued relationship. Moreover, by the time litigation was filed against these potential clients, they often had already sought counsel from other firms who had taken the time to build genuine rapport.

Sam’s wake-up call came when he lost a major class action litigation to a rival firm, a case he was confident he would get since he recently delivered an impressive victory in a case with very similar facts. To make matters worse, the client was an old law school friend who candidly told him, “Sam, you’re a brilliant litigator, but you only reach out when you need something. That’s not what I’m looking for in a long-term partnership.”

Realizing that relationships aren’t built overnight or through sporadic interactions, Sam began developing his Nurture System. This ultimately allowed him to build a client base of his dreams.

What Is a Nurture System and Why Is It Important?

Your Nurture System helps you develop and deepen relationships with both existing and potential clients and your key contacts, with the intent of strengthening the “Know, Like & Trust” factor.

Your Nurture System is responsible for helping you stay top of mind and develop relationships that are deep, meaningful, and based on mutual exchange of value, the opposite of being transactional.

What we see most people do is send client alerts, sometimes share articles, and sometimes invite their contacts to coffees or lunches. And these are all great, but they are not usually done in any strategic way. And most people conduct their relationship-building process in a one-dimensional way, which leads to one-dimensional relationships.

Self-reflection: When you think about how you try to nurture your business relationships, what types of interactions do you usually focus on?

Maximizing Your Relationship Building Using the Q Score Process

Okay, say you are fully brought into the idea that nurture is a critical element of your rainmaking success formula.

But trying to build quality relationships with all of your contacts is overwhelming and unnecessary. It’s like trying to boil the ocean.

That’s why we need to prioritize your contacts first so you can maximize your time and effort. And we do that by using what I call the Q Score process, where Q stands for Qualified.

The Q Process will help you do two things:

  1. Know which contacts you should focus on first, and
  2. Determine what type of nurture activities to do with each contact for maximum impact.

Why is that important?

Because we often fall into the trap of doing the same thing with our contacts (if it’s someone you know well, we tend to focus on Personal rapport, if it’s a client, then it’s mostly about Business).

Basically, the context of our relationship often dictates the nurture activities we engage in. But that’s exactly how our nurture stays one-dimensional and often ineffective, where we get stuck in the “friend zone” and unable to move the relationship into business, or it feels cold and transactional.

The Q Score Process will help you get out of that trap!

Here is how to use it:

  • Look at your contacts and assess each by assigning a Q Score 1 through 4.
  • Once you scored your contacts, you can use that information in two ways:
    1. Determine who you should prioritize in your nurture activities (meaning, who you should focus on more); and
    2. Determine what type of nurture activities you should use for the biggest impact (more on that later).

Q4: Contacts who got the score of Q4 are your low-hanging fruit – they both “Know, Like & Trust” you and have a deep understanding of your professional value. Focus on these contacts first.

Q2 & Q3: Contacts who got the score of Q2 and Q3 are equal as to the effort they require and the results they can generate.

Q1: Contacts who got the score of Q1 will take the most effort, so focus on them last. Unless, of course, they fall within a prospect category, in which case they move to the top of your Nurture list  (see the note below).

Important note: When prioritizing your contacts, if a contact falls within a prospective client category, in other words, this person occupies a role within their company that is involved in making decisions about retaining outside counsel (either directly or indirectly when others consult with this person before making a decision), then we prioritize this contact above all.

Three Key Types of Relationship Nurture Activities

To be effective, your relationship-building process must be multi-dimensional. Here is what I mean by that.

When it comes to relationship building, there are three main categories of nurture activities:

Practical Steps for Effective Nurture Process

1. Categorize your contacts

Determine whether your contact is an A, B, or C contact:

A Contacts: Place contacts in this category if they represent the highest level of strategic importance to your practice. These could be direct prospects who have shown a strong likelihood of becoming clients, invaluable referral sources, or connectors who can help you elevate the quality of your network. These are your best and most important connections. They can be prospective or current clients, connectors, referral sources, colleagues, or former colleagues. If you don’t know who besides other lawyers your referral sources are, ask yourself: “Who else has the same client base but offers different, non-competing services?”

  • Approach: Adopt a highly personalized and thoughtful “give-to-get” philosophy for this group. These are relationships you’ll want to invest in substantially, taking the time to meet in person whenever feasible. Go beyond the basics by offering insightful advice, sharing strategic information, or providing introductions that can benefit them professionally. Keep an active interest in their needs and challenges, as this will set the stage for meaningful conversations and potential collaborative opportunities.
  • Timing: Engage with these contacts every 4-6 weeks. Given their strategic importance, regular interaction is necessary to keep the relationship vibrant and the lines of communication open. This consistent timing ensures that you remain top of mind and be considered for opportunities as they arise.

B Contacts: Place contacts in this category if they represent good but not immediate opportunities for your practice. They could be past clients, professionals in related fields, or individuals in your broader network who have the potential to refer business your way in the future.

  • Approach: Focus on a semi-personalized approach for this group. While you don’t need to meet them in person frequently, periodic check-ins via phone calls or personalized emails can keep the relationship warm. Share relevant articles, legal updates, or other value-added content that demonstrates your expertise and keeps you top of mind.
  • Timing: Once a quarter is generally sufficient for these contacts. A periodic touchpoint keeps the relationship warm without overwhelming either party.

C Contacts: These are contacts that hold minimal immediate or future potential but are worth maintaining a minimal level of contact with. They could be former colleagues, classmates, or acquaintances who might not directly refer business but could offer some other form of value or insight.

  • Approach: Spend the least amount of time on nurturing these contacts. A generalized approach, like including them in your regular email newsletter or sending holiday greetings, is typically sufficient. The objective here is not active nurturing; it’s merely to keep you on their radar.
  • Timing: Reach out to these contacts once or twice a year. The focus here is maintaining a long-term relationship without investing significant time or effort.

2. Identify your “A Contacts”

Focus on 15-20 “A Contacts” at a time. The logic behind focusing on a maximum of 15-20 “A Contacts” is rooted in the concept of quality over quantity. Let’s face it; you’re a busy professional with multiple commitments. Diverting your attention across a wide array of contacts can dilute the potency of your business development efforts. Fifteen to twenty key contacts is a manageable number that allows you to give each relationship the focus and nourishment it deserves. This isn’t about being exclusive; it’s about being effective.

If you find yourself able to manage more contacts without compromising the level of attention, then by all means, expand your list. But remember, each added contact represents a commitment of time, effort, and strategic focus. Overwhelming yourself can lead not only to burnout but also to missed opportunities due to a lack of attention to detail.

Get Clear on the Strategic Value. Knowing why someone is an “A Contact” is just as crucial as identifying them in the first place. Every contact you label as ‘A’ should align with your overall business objectives in a tangible way. Are they a direct prospect? Can they connect you with decision-makers? Do they have insights or expertise that can help you achieve your goals?

These questions go beyond mere labels and get to the heart of the value proposition that each contact brings. Spending time to define this will enable you to tailor your approach more effectively and foster a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s not just about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them as well. In a profession often clouded by ambiguity, clarity on these aspects can serve as your guiding light.

3. Prioritize nurturing your contacts

Let’s face it: Despite our best intentions, relationship building often falls to the wayside in the grand scheme of daily responsibilities and client demands. But like any other aspect of your practice, your network won’t grow unless you invest time in it. A passive approach won’t cut it.

To remedy this, consider contact outreach as a non-negotiable appointment in your weekly agenda. Schedule it into your calendar, just as you would an important client meeting or a court deadline. When you formalize this commitment, you assign it the value it deserves. We’re talking about dedicating one to two hours a week to nurturing your relationships. It might sound like a tall order given your already packed schedule but think of it as an investment. A concentrated effort today can save you countless hours of scrambling for new business tomorrow. Make the commitment; reap the benefits.

4. Integrate and systemize your nurture activities whenever possible

The key to effective relationship nurturing lies in automation and strategic integration with your existing activities. It’s essential to create systems that seamlessly blend into your daily workflow, saving time without compromising quality.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Leverage Email Sorting and Scheduling: Create dedicated folders in your email for different categories of contacts (clients, partners, etc.).
    • Schedule Periodic Outreach: Use calendar reminders to prompt you to reach out to people in each folder every quarter.
    • Template Responses: Create templates for catching up, thanking, or congratulating. These can be customized, ensuring efficiency without losing sincerity.
  • Integrate Outreach into Your Professional Development: Self-improvement isn’t a solitary venture. Grow your skills and your network simultaneously.
    • Event Invitations: When you sign up for a conference, webinar, or another virtual event, consider inviting a few contacts to join. This creates a touchpoint and adds value.
    • Book or Other Resources Recommendations: When you read a new professional development book or find an app that saves you time, share that with your network. It shows that you care about them and helps you maintain contact.
  • Make Business Travel Productive: Business travel isn’t just for the immediate deal. It’s an investment in your network.
    • Geofencing Your Contacts: Keep a list sorted by location. Whenever you travel for work, a quick glance at your list will show you who to meet.
    • Lunch/Dinner Invitations: Already eating on the trip? Use meal times as an opportunity to catch up with local contacts.

5. Shift from “selling” to “learning”

When you meet with contacts, shift the spotlight from yourself to them. Make the conscious decision to learn about their business intricacies, career trajectories, and personal ambitions. Understand their challenges, not just as abstract business problems but as hurdles they are personally grappling with. Delve into their aspirations, both in the professional and personal realms. The more you know, the better positioned you’ll be to offer real value in the future.

This approach accomplishes two critical things:

  1. It makes your contacts feel valued and understood.
  2. It provides you with the necessary context to identify how your skills and services can help them achieve their goals.

By focusing on learning, you are not just avoiding the uncomfortable hard sell; you’re setting the stage for a business relationship that is both meaningful and mutually beneficial. And that is a real game-changer.

For ideas, you can use the following open-ended questions:

  • What’s the most exciting project you’re working on right now, and what challenges does it present?
  • What key objectives or milestones is your organization aiming to achieve this year?
  • What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
  • How do you envision the future of your industry, and how are you preparing for it?
  • What emerging trends or technologies do you think will impact your business the most?
  • Is there a particular skill set or expertise your team is currently lacking and looking to develop?
  • Can you describe a professional challenge you’ve recently faced and how you tackled it?
  • What’s the culture like at your organization, and what types of personalities tend to thrive there?
  • Do you have any unmet needs or problems in your organization that keep you up at night?
  • How do you measure success in your role, and what metrics are most important?
  • Are there any professional organizations, industry events, forums, or courses that you find particularly valuable?
  • How do you prioritize your tasks and projects, given that you likely have a lot competing for your attention?
  • How do you manage work-life balance, especially with the demands of your role?
  • What books, podcasts, or other resources have made a significant impact on your professional development?
  • What are your long-term career aspirations, and what steps are you taking toward them?
  • If you could collaborate with any individual or organization, who would it be and why?
  • What motivated you to choose your current career path or industry?
  • Can you share a pivotal experience that significantly shaped your professional journey?

These questions are designed to facilitate a deep understanding of your contacts. Use them as a structured guide to enrich your conversations and strengthen your professional relationships.


Business development is, first and foremost, about people and your relationships with these people. While marketing and visibility activities (speaking, writing, etc.) are critical, it’s the people who ultimately make the hiring decisions. As a lawyer, while time is rarely on your side, developing your Nurture System will help you strengthen and deepen your important relationships in ways that are sustainable and effective.