Every potential rainmaker wants clients, prospective clients, and people who can refer business to us to become evangelists for us.

I first heard the term “remarkable” when I read a Seth Godin article. He explains in a blog post from 2007 titled: How to be remarkable. I urge you to click on it and learn how to be remarkable.

When I was a young lawyer it was easier to be remarkable. There were fewer lawyers and most businesses were owned locally. There were no firm websites, no email, and clients were not inundated with lawyers trying to get their business. Lawyers developed business by doing good work, being active in their community, and obtaining an AV Martindale Hubbell rating.

In 2019, it is far more difficult. The number of lawyers has mushroomed, law firms are bigger, clients have consolidated and moved, and clients are challenged to see differences between one lawyer or law firm and another.

Over many years, I encouraged lawyers I coached to focus on what made them unique and what they could create that their potential clients would find uniquely valuable.

I owe my client development success to creating booklets, workshops and other materials that clients, potential clients, and people who referred business found to be remarkable. What is most important is why they found what I created to be remarkable. It was because it addressed an important issue many potential clients were not even aware existed.

Many lawyers I coached became extremely successful when they figured out how they were unique and different. They became valuable and remarkable to their clients and potential clients.

In a crowded legal market, what are the issues your clients and potential clients may face going forward?

I am speaking tomorrow at a firm retreat. The title of my presentation is “Taking Your Career to the Next Level.”

I will begin by asking for a show of hands who in the audience reasonably believes he or she can triple the annual revenue he or she generates in three years. So you can also answer the question, I did a search and the legal definition of reasonably believes is as follows:

Reasonably believes means believes on grounds that are reasonable in the circumstances.

Why would I begin with that question? For starters, when I first interviewed to join Jenkens & Gilchrist, the managing partner asked me to pretend like resources would not be an issue and prepare a plan to triple my volume of business in three years. In the previous year I had brought in about $1 million in fees. I prepared a plan he requested and I still have a copy.

That first year I generated $1.8 million in fees and the firm paid me a very generous bonus. I can’t remember if I went over $3 million in the third or fourth year. That is not important. What is important is I had prepared a plan to achieve that goal and I believed I could accomplish it by taking the actions I described in the plan.

Later, when I coached lawyers I asked each lawyer to create a long term plan designed to generate three times what they had generated the year before I began coaching him or her. When we talked I could tell whether each lawyer might achieve the goal.

How could I tell? First, I could tell by the quality and thought that went into his or her plan. Second, I could tell by visually seeing whether the lawyer believed he or she could accomplish the goal.

I am looking forward to the response I receive to the question tomorrow.

If you subscribe, you know I have been giving clues on how to ask for business/close the sale. Here are the clues so far:

  1. Ask and answer why you are uncomfortable asking for business. You are likely uncomfortable because you do not want to take advantage or come across as a salesman.
  2. Position yourself so you never have to ask for business by identifying problems, opportunities and changes and giving away solutions. This is challenging to accomplish, but it gets rid of the need to ask.
  3. Build relationships with your contacts so you find ways to add value before being asked. This is a great approach because you are focused on helping your potential client.
  4. Work on your charisma. Clients want to do business with lawyers they know like and trust.

Now, we are ready to discuss the fifth and last clue on how to ask for business/close the sale. Here is the clue. Never ask for business and never try to close the sale.

Why?

Asking for business and closing the sale is all about what is in the relationship for you, not about what is in the relationship for your potential client. If you need more support for this conclusion read Closing the Book on Closing by Charles H. Green.

Here is the secret. Ask or tell your potential client you want to help them and do it as if you will not get paid for helping. The best lawyers are not practicing law for the money. They are doing it because they genuinely love helping their clients.

Seth Godin said it well in Linchpin:

Virtually all of us make our living engaging directly with other people. When the interactions are genuine and transparent, they usually work. When they are artificial and manipulative, they usually fail.

So, the words you choose to ask for business are not as important as your sincere desire to help your client. The words I believe clients want to hear more often than not are:

“I can help you with that.”

Here is a link so you can print the five clues: How to Ask for Business

 

This is the fourth in my series giving clues on how to ask for business/close the sale.

Have you ever met anyone that you liked right away? What was it about that person that made her so easily likeable? I suggest she has charisma and you probably decided you liked her before she said a word.

As you may know, Nancy and I belong to a wonderful golf club Diamante in Cabo San Lucas. We first bought a week there in 2010 when no buildings had been built. Nancy had fallen in love with the Dunes golf course, so we took a chance.

We love golfing there and enjoy the friends we have met there. But, what makes Diamante most special for us is the staff. It is like going to a high end resort, only everyone who works there, knows us, welcomes us and makes us feel like we are part of their family. There are too many wonderful people to name.

Here is a selfie with Javier. He has caddied for us for eight years.

When we visited in May, our guest was celebrating a birthday. Nancy, her two sons and her daughter with huge help from the staff at Izzy’s restaurant arranged for a surprise party. It was a great time.

Maya Angelou once famously said:

Recently I read a blog post titled: The Science of Charisma. The writer referenced a well-known UCLA study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian. He found:

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

Reading this blog post, enabled me to better understand what makes the staff at Diamante so special. They have charisma. We will remember the golf, the lagoon, and the other facilities, but at the top of our list will be each people who enthusiastically greet us and go the extra mile to make our visits memorable.  Each person gives us his or her smile and caring attitude without any expectation of getting something in return from us. The Diamante staff makes us look forward to returning.

You may think this has nothing to do with lawyers attracting clients and you may think you either have charisma or you don’t. Neither thought is true.

Like it or not, lawyers are in a service business, and clients can easily determine if a lawyer genuinely cares.

While charisma comes more naturally to some than others, it is a skill that can and should be learned. In 2008, the Boston Globe wrote about developing charisma in an article titled: Charm School. There are many excellent learning points in the article. The article mentions that John Neffinger is a founder of KNP Communications, a consulting firm that teaches clients how to be more charismatic through a particular combination of traits: strength plus warmth.

Strength is conveyed primarily with posture and gestures,” Neffinger says. Good, erect posture is strong. Holding one’s hands palms up and facing away is weak, as are “self-comforting” gestures, like rubbing one’s arm. Warmth is conveyed mostly by a genuine smile (in which the eye muscles smile in addition to the mouth muscles); but one must not smile in a way that undermines strength.

Isn’t that exactly what clients are looking for? They want a lawyer who inspires confidence and they want a lawyer who genuinely cares about them. If you believe in yourself you will show strength and if you genuinely do care about your clients, the warmth will come through in your facial expressions and body language.

Whether you like it or not, people are sizing you up before you say a word. To use a famous quote: ‘You only get one chance to make first impression.”

What first impression are you making?

 

The third clue to asking for business and closing the sale is to find ways to add value prior to getting any legal work.

That sounds easy enough, but how do you put it into practice? I believe the key is to ask good questions and listen to the answers. Ask about his or her company. Learn about his or her background. If the person with whom you are speaking founded the company, ask about what prompted him or her to launch a new business.

A lawyer I coached years ago was at a social event. He was speaking to a friend who owned a business. Per our coaching sessions he was asking questions about the business. In the discussion he learned that his friend was acquiring a company, but the cost of the financing was a major problem. The lawyer I coached was a litigator, but his firm included lawyers who arranged financing of acquisitions. So he simply asked his friend to give him 30 days to see if his firm could find the financing at a lower cost.

The lawyer offered to help. You know the rest of the story.

So, the third clue for how to ask for business/close the sale is to find ways to add value in advance of getting any legal work. When you do it with no expectation of anything in return, good things generally follow.

This week I am giving clues on how to ask friends and contacts for business and close the sale.

My second clue is put yourself in a position that you never need to ask for business or try to close the sale. You might be thinking:

“That’s great, but how do I do it?”

I tell lawyers I coach:

“Identify a problem, opportunity or change (before your potential clients know they have one), offer a solution and give it away.”

This is a two step process.

  1. Put yourself in the position to identify the problem.
  2. Create valuable content and give it away.

You can identify problems, opportunities and changes by having a keen sense of what is happening in your clients’ world.

You know better than me what the top legal issues are in 2019 and going forward. I see some as follows:

  • Healthcare
  • Privacy
  • Antitrust
  • Technology
  • Green New Deal concepts and other environmental issues
  • Immigration
  • Workplace harassment and violence
  • Guns
  • Campaign finance
  • Trade Secret Protection

I will leave you with a specific example of how I applied this concept.

Historically, by federal and state law highways and bridges were built by contracts awarded to the low bidder. In 1988, the Federal Highway Administration’s SEP-14 project began to evaluate Innovative contracting practices. Those practices included design-build contracting. Even though contractors protested this dramatic change,  I knew the “evaluation” would ultimately lead to design-build contracts being used to construct most large projects.

I wrote a guide for contractors and began speaking at industry meetings all over the country. As a result of identifying this change and giving away a solution, contractors and state DOT’s sought me out to help them with design-build projects all over the country. I never had to ask for the business.

So, the second clue to asking for business/closing the sale is to put yourself in position to have potential clients seek your help so you never need to ask for business.

How do I ask for the business and close the sale?

That is among the questions I am most frequently asked. The lawyers I coached frequently added that they had built their profile and relationships, but they simply had not found a way to convert it to business.

Do you have the same question?

I could give you and the many lawyers who ask the question an answer, but I think you will find it way more helpful to answer the question on your own with me giving you clues along the way. So, for the next few days, I will give you parts of the puzzle. If you find the thoughts helpful, share the blog with your friends and discuss what you get out of each post.

So, here is your first clue: If you don’t know how to ask for business, think about why you don’t know. Many lawyers I coach will say:

“I want the business, but I don’t want to come across to my friend/contact like I am exploiting our relationship.”

Other lawyers I coach say:

“I want the business, but I do not want to come across like I am a used car salesman.”

Think about your reason for not knowing how to ask for the business. Think about the two reasons I shared with you.

Does that give you a clue?

I will give you a second clue: If you have read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, you will likely have a good idea. Although the book does not address lawyers and clients and does not specifically answer how to ask for business, it does give you clues you can use.

So the first clue to answer how ask for business is to ask and answer why you uncomfortable doing it.

Do you belong to Costco or Sam’s Club? If so, do you ever go without a list?

When I do, I take more time, spend more money, buy things I do not need and forget to buy things I do need. Without a plan you waste time and energy and those are your two most precious assets.

To Use your limited time and energy most effectively you must have a plan. It will help you to:

  • Prioritize
  • Focus
  • Execute

There is great evidence supporting the conclusion that people with written goals and a plan to achieve them are far more likely to be successful.

 

 

My Lateral Link colleague Abby Gordon is back with another guest post. In this one Abby shares some really great advice for law firm associates.

In my 7+ years in Biglaw and now 6+ years as a legal recruiter, assisting others with career planning, I have learned certain lessons I wish we’d all internalize early in our careers:

  1. Ask questions at the start. Ask questions to clarify the substance of your assignments and questions relating to logistical and practical matters. One question that is always appropriate is, “When do you need this by?” Trust me, you’ll wish you’d asked.
  2. Notwithstanding Lesson #1, ask yourself every question first. An essential quality of a great associate is developing the judgment to know when it’s something you can figure out on your own and when it requires input from someone more senior. Be respectful of senior lawyers’ time (which is also clients’ money). Learning to problem-solve and to be resourceful is a crucial skill as a lawyer. Even the most mundane tasks are learning experiences in disguise.
  3. Be responsive and efficient but pause before you respond. Take an extra minute to breathe, think, polish, and proofread your response.
  4. Appreciate that no job is too menial. Do you feel that many of your assignments are beneath you? That a well-trained monkey could complete them? Well, there’s a method to the madness. You need to live in the weeds—often for a long time—before you can design the perfect garden.
  5. Your day-to-day tasks might be tedious and you may be overworked and exhausted but you must always make time to ask how your task relates to the big picture. This is how you develop as a lawyer: by doing the grunt work carefully and meticulously while studying and conceptualizing the work of your whole team.
  6. Pay attention to detail. Re-read, re-read, re-read backwards. You are being paid the big bucks to complete menial tasks because the partners and the clients trust that you will do them right. You must catch the typos, even at 2:00 a.m. The simpler the task, the more important it is to avoid cutting corners and avoid mistakes.
  7. Recognize that organization, meeting deadlines, and a positive attitude count for at least 50 percent. Even if you’re not the best lawyer out there, attention to detail plus meeting deadlines—all with a smile on your face—will go a long, long way to keeping you employed.
  8. Treat junior lawyers and administrative staff—and everyone else for that matter—with just as much respect as you treat the partners. The positive attitude in Lesson #7 should not be reserved solely for your superiors. Be kind to everyone, as it will smooth the road for you going forward. And moreover, because it’s the right thing to do.
  9. Don’t trust blindly and assume the firm will “do the right thing.” You may feel as though you’re a valued member of a big, happy family, but ultimately law firms are businesses. Be smart and protect yourself. It’s not appropriate to email me (a recruiter) via work email regarding your job search. And a lesson I learned the hard way: do not give notice of your departure before your year-end bonus hits your account.
  10. Appreciate constructive feedback. Don’t get defensive. Your seniors get annoyed, and worse, they will stop giving you feedback. Then how will you grow? How can you properly assess your prospects for advancement?
  11. Develop authentic relationships with partners. Seek out mentors. You need someone who’ll go to bat for you. Failure to seek out and nurture a relationship with an influential partner sponsor (and someone who’ll be around for the long haul) is one of the most common mistakes that stop otherwise qualified associates from making partner.
  12. Develop a business plan. I believe that all firm lawyers need business plans, whether you’re looking to move firms or not. And maintain an always-ready, updated resume and representative matters sheet.
  13. Accept that you and only you are in charge of your professional development. Don’t assume law schools or law firm partners are looking out for your career development. Your interests may not always be aligned with the firm’s interests. Partners are busy. Be proactive and ask for specific guidance. Write down your career goals and how you plan to achieve them. This career plan is for your eyes only; it should be the result of honest and thoughtful introspection and self-assessment. Schedule weekly check-ins with yourself to take stock of your professional development needs and goals.
  14. Keep your options open. Work towards your goals but be open to changing them or the path to reaching them. Be open to considering new opportunities. Constantly assess and reassess your options. If you never change jobs, make it an affirmative decision to stay put. If your career goals stay constant, affirmatively choose them again and again.
  15. Practice authentic networking. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and connect systematically and in a timely manner with people you meet. Network to learn from others and to open your horizons. Don’t save building a network for when you’re desperate for a new job.
  16. Recognize that career planning is a continuous and thoughtful process and not a one-and-done crisis management tool. Don’t be complacent. Be proactive. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with a recruiter you trust. Remember that Career Services is for alums and not just current students. Calendar regular appointments with yourself to check in and ask if you’re doing everything you can do to 1) be the best lawyer you can be, and 2) be the happiest lawyer you can be.
  17. Believe in yourself. Develop and continuously re-evaluate your own definition of success and metrics for measuring it, in line with your personal goals and values. Appreciate constructive feedback but do not let how others view your legal skills define your worth as a human being.
    ***
    I’d love to hear about your career turning points and insights. Please e-mail me at agordon@lateralink.com and share with me what’s on your list of lessons learned!

As you know, I am currently recruiting lawyers. If I was playing baseball, one would say I haven’t hit a home run in 2019. I haven’t even hit a single. In recruiting parlance, I have not placed a lawyer in 2019. Successful recruiters make cold calls. I’m uncomfortable doing that.

I feel good when I place lawyers I know with law firms I know. What are law firms I know looking for in potential partners?

When I ask law firms what they want in a lateral partner hire, the typical response is the lateral partner should have at least $1 Million in business. Given that law firms discourage associates from doing any client development, where can you start?

Several years ago, two lawyers I was coaching asked me how to stay optimistic and persevere when they were not seeing the results of their efforts.

A lawyer in my old firm asked the same question. I went back and found an email reply I had sent in 2004. I decided to update it and share it with you:

The first step to having $1 million law practice is to decide you want to have one. Believe it or not, most lawyers never decide they want to develop a $ 1 million practice, so they don’t.

The second step is to answer the “why” question. How important is it to you to generate a $1 million of business a year? It was of compelling importance to me years ago because having it provided security for Nancy and Jill. Having $1 million also allowed me to control my career and life. Finally, I felt my purpose as a lawyer was to enable my clients to achieve their business goals.

The third step is to believe in yourself. If it is important to you, do you REALLY believe you can achieve it? If not I want you to start really believing it now by telling yourself you are a $1 million lawyer. I want you to visualize being a $1 million lawyer. See:

  • yourself meeting with clients who greatly value what you are doing to help them.
  • yourself receiving an annual award from the firm (which I received each year).
  • yourself having young lawyers work for you and having others ask how you did it.
  • the content look your spouse and children have because they feel secure financially.

1 Million Atty.pngI want you to write down on paper or make an entry in the task part of Outlook: “I am a $1 million lawyer.” I want you to look at this written statement at least twice each day and close your eyes and visualize what I suggested above. Next, I want you to establlsh a date by which you will achieve this. Is it by the end of 2020? 2021? 2022? Make the date certain.

Next I want you to focus on where your $1 million in fees will come from and start making a list of what you need to do to generate $1 million in fees. Brainstorm with yourself each day. Close your eyes and become creative. Use your imagination to come up with ideas no one has implemented.

This approach may sound hokey to you, but I did it and it worked for me. As long as I had my eyes on the prize and focused on what achieving it would do for me and my family, I never gave up in tough times. I am confident you will achieve $1 million a year. You have the legal talent and relationship building skills. Now, all you need is to have a burning desire to do it, fueled by something that is really important to you. When you have that desire, you will:

  • Convince your subconcious mind by autosuggestion and repetition you will achieve your goal.
  • Then, you will creatively develop a concrete plan.
  • Finally, you will execute your plan, even when you are faced with challenges.

I will leave you with a Robert J. Collier quote that resonates with me and hopefully with you also:

The great successful men of the world have used their imagination…they think ahead and create their mental picture in all it details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building–steadily building.