Over the years I have come up with a strong opinion. It is

Client Development is not rocket science.

If I am right, why are lawyers not just doing it? Maybe I can explain and convince you.

What is the Power of “Not Yet?” If you are a senior lawyer mentoring younger lawyers, a junior lawyer trying to develop business, or a parent with children growing up, I invite you to read this post and watch the Carol Dweck video.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am a fan of Stanford Professor Carol Dweck.  Go back and read:

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I recently came across a TED Talk she did in 2014. Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve.

It is only about 10 minutes long, but well worth watching. If you are making client development efforts without success so far, don’t think you are failing. Instead think of it in terms of “not yet.”

Client development is more natural for some than others, but I strongly believe client development skills can be developed. I have shared it was not natural for me. I developed it.

Carol Dweck asks:

How can we build the bridge to “yet?” If you work with me, you know that we work on the process. We work on constantly making progress. I praise the lawyers I coach based on their effort.

Lawyers I coach who are focused on making progress are more engaged, more strategic and more likely to stretch themselves and get outside their comfort zone.

Those of you who are young lawyers will not even recognize what it took to become a successful lawyer back in the day. Under the old formula, you:

  1. Billed lots of hours
  2. Got a Martindale AV rating
  3. Worked for loyal institutional clients
  4. Did not make waves
  5. Were told not to worry about client development
  6.  Made partner even if you had no clients
  7. Worked at your firm until you retired

What are the new rules for lawyers? At the risk of repeating what I have written here before, here goes. You must:

  1. Narrow your market of potential clients and become visible and credible to them
  2. Know your clients’ industry, business and the client representative’s special needs
  3. Get out from under the senior partner’s shadow
  4. Anticipate client problems, opportunities and changes before other lawyers and even before the client
  5. Figure out “remarkable” solutions and give them away in articles, blogs, presentations, webinars, podcasts etc.
  6. Connect with referral sources and weak tie connections and help them succeed
  7. Make your clients your friends and your friends your clients
  8. Leave your desk and spend more quality time with your clients
  9. Become more efficient
  10. Provide extraordinary service

I will not have coached most of you reading this blog post.

Likely, most of you reading this will never have a coach. If you want to coach yourself and stay motivated, here is a list of questions I typically asked lawyers I coached during our individual coaching sessions.

  1. What have you done on your 90-day action plan?
  2. Do you need any help with any of the action items?
  3. What challenges have you encountered?
  4. Have you had any successes, breakthroughs? (not necessary obtaining a new client)
  5. Do you have anything coming up that you want to brainstorm about?
  6. What did you hope to accomplish that you didn’t get done?
  7. What else would you like to get out of this coaching session?
  8. Can you give examples of one or two things you have been doing to start to create daily BD habits? (expanding client conversations; identifying how you can make client’s job easier; reading biz intell for a particular client). Re relationship building:
  9. What are you working on right now and how well do you know the people at the client organization?
  10.  Is there anything you can do in the context of the work to advance the relationship with client?
  11. Which clients do you have the best rapport?
  12. What steps might you take to deepen the relationship?

I have a secret to share: In private practice there is no such thing as work-life balance. Even if there were, pursuing work-life balance would be incredibly boring.

Instead of seeking work-life balance, you should instead be seeking a life that is based on your priorities. You should also keep in mind that your priorities will change over time. When you are single, you may want to focus on work and having fun. When you are married with children, your priority will be your family.

A lawyer I coached many years ago ranked her priorities as follows:

  1. Family
  2. Faith
  3. Health
  4. Work

There is no way to add more hours to your day. Other than the weekend when daylight savings time “falls back” to standard time, there are only 168 hours each week. The real question is how well you use those hours to achieve your priorities.

Suppose you sleep 8 hours a night, or 56 a week. Suppose you bill 40 hours a week and you invest another 10 hours a week on your career development, client development and other firm activities. That leaves 62 waking hours of personal time for family, fitness, community, church, recreation, hobbies, commuting and other activities.

That is really a significant amount of time. How you spend the 10 hours a week (or whatever number) of investment time will ultimately determine the quality of your career. How you spend the 62 hours (or whatever number) of family and personal time will ultimately determine the quality of your life and family relationships.

I recently read that the greatest concern law firm leaders have in 2019 is a future recession. The economy has been good for lawyers and law firms for some time. But, eventually there will be a recession. Hopefully it will not be as bad as 2008.

Are you prepared?

 

I frequently wonder why so few lawyers I meet have a burning desire to develop business and have their own clients. Having clients is the key to a successful legal career.

After the last recession, I read a blog post that may have provided one possible reason. Take a look at Living a Life of Adventure by Randy Gage. He says:

For most of us, we don’t make meaningful change until we face meaningful adversity. Almost every success story I know started out when the person faced down a great challenge.  Because challenges are the impetus that causes us to finally change.

You are not facing meaningful adversity yet, but it will come some day. What can I do to convince you to change and focus on developing your own clients and book of business before adversity forces you to do it?

I recently read a Success Magazine article: 10 Tips to Achieve Anything You Want in Life. If we worked together or you’ve been a long-time reader, you’ll know why I found the article valuable.

The very first tip is one I have suggested to every lawyer I have coached and in these blog posts many times. It is

1. Focus on commitment, not motivation. Do you remember me telling you or writing here that you have to have a big enough “why” to stick with it.

In the Success article, the writer puts it this way:

Just how committed are you to your goal? How important is it for you, and what are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it? If you find yourself fully committed, motivation will follow.

You’ve heard me say or read when I wrote that when you have a big enough “what” and “why,” the how will come easily.

Take a look at each of the 10 Tips. I believe you will find each one valuable.

Number 9 is Plan.

Like me, the writer suggests you plan each week with what you plan to do, when you plan to do it, and it my case I suggest you estimate how long it will take and put the activity on your calendar.

Do your departments, sections/practice groups and offices have a strategic plan? (To make it easier, I will refer to all these as groups).

If you are a member of a small firm, does your firm have a strategic plan? If not, developing a focused strategic plan for your group or your firm is one sure way for your firm to be more successful.

If you are a member of a large firm and your firm’s planning stops at the firm level, it likely will not provide the maximum benefit to your firm. If you are a member of a small firm and each lawyer in the firm does his or her own thing, your firm is not achieving what it could with a collaborative concerted effort.

When I was a practice group leader we created a ConstLawStrategicPlan.pdf for our practice group. Then I worked with some of our other practice groups on their plans. Now, I have the chance to work with groups in other large firms and small firms helping them develop their plans. I know each group has benefitted just by the collaborative brainstorming.

Where do you start to develop a plan for your group? I suggest you begin by defining what differentiates your  group from your competitor  groups in other firms. As you will see by clicking on our construction law practice group plan, we brainstormed these questions:

Why? Why would a potential construction client choose to engage our construction law practice group  as opposed to another firm? How? How does our construction law practice group distinguish itself from other firms? What? What must our construction law practice group do to distinguish itself and cause potential clients to select our firm?

Our construction law practice group competed with some groups in large firms and many boutique construction law firms that charged lower hourly rates than our group. It was important for us to focus on targeted differentiators. Here were the six we focused on:

  1. First to Market
  2. Investing in Clients
  3. Effective Use of Technology
  4. Strategically Located
  5. Full-Service
  6. Quality Service Driven

Each time our practice group met, our agenda included one or more of the six differentiators.

I hope I have convinced you that having your group or having your firm create a plan will energize your lawyers and will cause them to focus their time on more valuable efforts to provide value to existing clients and secure more clients.

 

Having coached over 1800 lawyers in the United States and Canada, I have a pretty good idea why coaching works and how to make it work most effectively.

Over the years I coached lawyers who have since become top rainmakers in their firms. I coached lawyers who have since become top leaders in their firms. If I coached lawyers in your firm, you may be one of those lawyers or you may have been part of a coaching group that included one of those lawyers.

Why does client development coaching work?

Let me begin with the prerequisite that must be in place for client development coaching to be successful.

To make coaching successful the lawyers who will be in your program have to want to become more successful at attracting, retaining and expanding relationships with clients and they must be willing to be held accountable.

So, if your firm has selected the lawyers who are both ambitious and open to coaching, why will coaching work?

  1. I believe because it starts with your lawyers owning it. Your lawyers do not want to be told what to do. They want to feel in control. In coaching your lawyers will get out of it what they choose to put into it. They get to choose.
  2. Client development coaching works because your lawyers will be able to figure out which client development efforts will achieve the greatest return on their investment of time.
  3. Client development coaching works because it is focused on your lawyers achieving their goals and because it provides both assistance and accountability. I strongly believe a group of 6 to 18 lawyers should be in your coaching program. There should be a group component to the coaching, including a group financial goal, and individual coaching. No one in the group wants to let the group down. They feel they are a firm within your firm.

Just curious, is your firm developing the next generation of rainmakers?

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.