I subscribe to Selling Power magazine. Each month at the back of the magazine there are quotes. Here is a quote from distance runner and Congressman Jim Ryun.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

If you are a senior associate or junior partner, you likely know it is important to develop a book of business. You likely also have some idea of what to do. If you know it is important and you have some idea of what to do, Why aren’t you doing it?

In a nutshell, client development is not part of your hard wiring and a habit. To successfully develop a book of business you have to change your routine and get outside of your comfort zone. That is challenging. I wrote about this in December 2010: Why Change is So Difficult.

I have worked with many lawyers just like you. Some rationalize why they are not actively doing what is needed. The most common excuse I hear is:

I have been so busy with billable work that I have not been able to…

Why do lawyers say this to me so often? The obvious answer is they are busy. But, there is more to it than that. Put simply, being busy with billable work is something that is familiar to lawyers and thus more comfortable and less risky than doing client development activities.

Recently I read a blog titled: Why Most People Fail at Change (& How to be Successful) written by R.C. Thornton. If you have five minutes, it is worth reading and asking if what Thornton says applies to you. He uses the example that you want to be more productive and you figure out what you need to do. Then, he says:

Do you know what happens next? It’s what happens to most people. You slowly forget…forget that you wanted to be more productive, and that you made these little promises to yourself about using an organizer.

For those of you considering a client development coaching program for your firm, Thornton has identified a primary reason to create one. Those lawyers who participate in the coaching program are not allowed to forget that they wanted to do better at client development or that they made promises to do actions that will lead to new clients or expand relationships with existing clients.

If you want to become successful at client development, you must find ways to get through the challenges of making changes until client development becomes part of your hardwiring. In a nutshell, you must find a compelling reason to go out and do it, and stick to it even when you do not see immediate results. If you have no compelling reason why developing and expanding relationships with clients, you will always be “too busy with billable work.” Find a coach, or even a colleague who helps you be accountable.