I remember speaking to groups of associates in two law firms a few years ago. The topics generally covered the secret of being a successful lawyer and having a fulfilling and active family life.
When I was billing 2000 hours I did not have time to study or understand why some lawyers were successful and had a great family life and why others did not.
I also did my client development instinctively and some things worked very effectively, while other things did not work quite as well. I didn’t have time then to sit down and analyze why.
For the last 10 years, I have coached well over 1000 lawyers and made dozens of presentations to law firms and bar associations. (For those of you who are young lawyers in Boston, I will be speaking to you on October 23 at the program “Brand Yourself.” I hope to see you there.)
I have witnessed first hand the attributes of the most successful lawyers I have coached.
While each lawyer I have coached has unique talents, weaknesses, ambitions and practices, and there is no magic pill or formula, there are principles that I urge you to think about and try.
As I have outlined on this page before, it all begins with your attitude. The top lawyers I have coached have an incredible attitude. When you talk to yourself do you say:
“Yes, but…” or “Sure. How…?”
Do you say;
“My problem is…” or “my opportunity is…”
Clarity on What You Want
Next, you must have clarity on what you want in your career and life. Your time and energy are your most important assets. The top lawyers I coach are focused and strategic and as a result do not waste time. If you do not have clarity by having a written plan and written goals you waste precious time.
Focus on What Your Clients Need
Next, you need to focus on what your clients need. They do not want to be sold. They do not care about what you do. They hire you to solve their problems, help them achieve opportunities or deal with internal or external changes.
If what you do does not address those issues, the client will not hire you, no matter how good you are.
Build Your Profile
You need to build your profile. Over time it really helps to focus on a niche and become the “go to lawyer” in that niche. How do you pick a niche? Start by finding an area that is growing in importance, something your clients need and you are passionate about.
One lawyer coached a few years ago sent me her revised plan. She identified clients and potential clients, what she could do for them, two specific areas she wanted to focus on and become the “go to lawyer” and a game plan to become recognized by the clients she wants to serve. Once she figured this out, she was off to the races.
Build Relationships Through Trust and Rapport
Building your profile gives you the opportunity to build relationships with clients and potential clients. All things being equal, clients want to do business with lawyers they know, like and trust.
At the end of the day, you get the opportunity to be considered based on your reputation and recommendations. That gets you a meeting. At the meeting, you will ultimately get hired based on how well you connect with your potential clients and build trust and rapport.
Keep Clients by Understanding Their Industry, Business and Them
Assuming you do high quality work, you can keep those clients by understanding their industry, their business and their personal needs. You can also keep them by deepening the relationship with them. Are your friends your clients? Are your clients, your friends?
Build Your Practice by Building Your Team
At some point you need to build a team. Young lawyers who will later work with you will be thinking “what is in this for me to work with…?”
You need to treat them as if they are as important as your most important client because without their help you will not retain your most important clients.
I recommend that you align their goals with your own goals and your client’s goals, provide sufficient information in a timely way for them to do their work and then constantly give feedback.
Stay in the Moment
Finally, I recommend you plan your personal time as well as you plan your work time.
For me, Saturday afternoon starting with lunch was always Jill’s time when she grew up. We called it father-daughter time. Before having a Blackberry/iPhone it was much easier to stay focused on her.
After she got married and came to visit, we had lunch together. While chatting, I received an email. Quick on the draw, I pulled my Blackberry out of its holster, read the email and then responded.
When I looked up, Jill said:
Dad, I feel like you are billing me by the hour. Is it possible to turn off your Blackberry for an hour while we eat lunch?
That story was passed around so far and wide that it became an example in this Boston Globe article: Business’s new task: turning off. Sadly, you have to be a subscriber to read the entire article.
Find Out What Superachievers Do Differently
Do you want more ideas? Take a look at the Selling Power magazine article: How Superachievers Outperform Others by Dr. Donald J. Moine. I found it very supportive of what I have learned and written about how super lawyers outperform others.