If you are struggling planning your future and starting your client development activities, consider using the principles in Stephen Covey’s book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read it when it was first published and found it was one of the most important books I read. You can find a summary of each habit at Dr. Covey’s website. I believe Habits 1-3 deal with your career development. Habits 4-6 deal with client development and Habit 7 deals with both your career and client development.
Habit 1: Be Proactive: You are responsible for your own career success. Your law firm can help, but you are the one responsible for your future success and happiness. To put it in construction terms, you are the architect of your career.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: In planning your career you must have a vision of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. When you know “the what” and “the why,” the how comes to you very creatively. To put this in construction terms, you must design your career with an idea of what you are building.
Habit 3: Put First Things First: What is the one thing you aren’t doing now that if you were doing it would make the greatest difference in your life. Using the third habit, you want to create actions for your success. Dr. Covey suggests that you think about your personal (father, husband, son, brother) and professional (billing lawyer, learning lawyer, client developer) roles and plan your week around those roles. To put this in construction terms, it is time to take the most important actions to build your career and life.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: This is about your relationship with your clients, figuring out what a “win” is for them and doing what is in their best interests.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand then to be Understood: Dr. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy “diagnose before you prescribe.” Learn to ask your clients good questions and then listen empathically to their answers for both feeling and meaning before offering your advice.
Habit 6: Synergize: In your work with clients, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is about opening your mind to ideas advanced by others on your team. Your most effective solutions to solve your client’s problems come from working collaboratively with your colleagues and your client’s representatives.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: This habit is about never feeling you know all you need to know. Each day continue learning and striving to become a better lawyer. This is where Dr. Covey breaks up the continual improvement into four areas:
- Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
- Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
- Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
- Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service