Some law firms are only looking for lawyers with over $1 Million, or more, in business. Many mid-sized firms are looking for lawyers who give their personal best and are capable of attracting $1 Million, or more, in business. I prefer to work with those firms and those lawyers.

Are you someone who wants to give your personal best to client development as you have done to other aspects of your career and personal life?

If so, how can you know if you are giving your personal best?

Here’s my thought: A defining ability is the willingness to get outside your comfort zone to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you are emotionally comfortable, it keeps you from being as creative as you might be.

I owed a great deal of the success and enjoyment of my law practice to being creative and willing to take risks and believing I could achieve a stretch goal.

If you can make it to the edge of your personal or professional abilities, then you know you are giving your personal best. Hope this helps.

When a young partner comes to me wanting to change law firms, among other things, I ask:

  • What is the most important thing you want to accomplish in your career?
  • Why is accomplishing it important to you?

Years ago, a lawyer I was coaching was struggling with developing specific actions in his plan. He asked me to help him.

I told him he was going at it backwards. You and he will have a difficult time figuring out how if you haven’t figured out what and why.

I know I am not the first person to use these words, but I have always found them incredibly powerful and inspirational. If you can figure out the WHAT, and you know the WHY you will creatively figure out the HOW.
Have you figured out WHAT you want to become both as a lawyer and in your personal life? Do you know WHY it is important to you? If so, let your creative mind come up with HOW to achieve it.
Want more thoughts on this subject? Check out the Fast Company post: 5 Career Questions To Ask Yourself Instead Of, “What’s My Passion?”

I’ve been in recruiting now for a year. As of one year, I have made no cold calls (so if you want my help, you will have to contact me). I have placed lawyers only in firms I admire. As a result, I have passed several opportunities to make placements.

I was recently asked: What is my “sweet spot” for lawyer placements?

It is not the lawyer already generating millions in business unless I coached that lawyer when he or she was a young partner or associate.

I like working with the highly motivated young lawyers who in the right setting are capable of generating more business and feeling more fulfilled in their careers.

When I was coaching lawyers I worked with dozens of senior associates and junior partners in large law firms who now have some clients but could take control of their future and develop much more business in a more entrepreneurial law firm.

 

Over the last year, several of the young law firm partners who sought my help told me they did not feel they were being fairly compensated.

Some time ago while working out I was listening to Daniel Pink’s book Drive. One of the parts I listened to was a discussion of fair compensation both internally and externally.

It’s funny, I never thought about whether I was fairly compensated until I learned what my partners were being paid and when other firms offered me substantially more money to join their firm. They say that ignorance is bliss and that was surely true for me.

Even if your law firm strives to keep it secret, you will learn what your colleagues are making. One way or another you will also figure out what lawyers are making in other firms.

With that knowledge, you will then evaluate whether you are being fairly compensated.

In 2003, the year before I left my law firm, two huge international law firms made offers to me that were more than $200,000 than I was making at the time. You might ask why didn’t I join either of those firms. While the money was great, I believed I would be giving up control of my destiny.

In my year of recruiting, I have never placed a lawyer in a firm where I believed the lawyer would be giving up control of his or her destiny. If all you are looking for is the firm that will pay you the most money, don’t call on me. I don’t want to place any lawyer in a firm they will likely leave just a few years later.

Here are some things you might want to know about a firm you are considering:

  • Does the law firm adjust compensation every year?  If your potential firm adjusts compensation every year, you and several of your new partners will find a reason to feel they are not fairly compensated.
  • Does the law firm you are considering have significant intervals between the levels of partner compensation? If your potential firm’s intervals are as low as $5000-$10,000, you and your new partners might easily get upset about a colleague making $5000 more than you. It is harder to be upset when the difference is $50,000
  • Do you understand the criteria your potential firm is to establish compensation?
  • Is your compensation competitive with other firms that would like to have you?
  • Does your potential firm adequately compensate its junior partners? If not, you will have a problem finding lawyers to help you.).

Do you feel you are fairly compensated in your present law firm? Do you feel like you have the maximum opportunity to choose your destiny, take control of your future, and achieve what motivates you in your career?

I am into my 11th month as a legal recruiter. So, I can’t say I have lots of experience.

However, I may have even more valuable experience. I was heavily recruited for many years and my experience with legal recruiters was not very positive. Most, if not all legal recruiters did not do their homework, and none of them asked great questions. They asked what I was being paid, what my portable book of business was, what my working attorney numbers were, and what my billing rate was.

But, here is a list of questions I can’t remember ever being asked:

  1. What do you want to accomplish during the rest of your career?
  2. When do you want to retire?
  3. Other than compensation what are you looking for from a law firm?
  4. What core values in a law firm are important to you?
  5. How did and how do your clients find you?
  6. What would you like to see a firm do to help you expand your practice?
  7. How many young lawyers are working for you, and do you want them to come with you?
  8. Do you have a written business plan with goals?
  9. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
  10. Other than your book of business, your hard work, and your great personality, is there anything else you have to offer a new firm?

Before I get to the point of this post I want to share a couple of things with you.

First, I had two surgeries in November. The first was an eye muscle surgery, to correct my left eye seeing below the right eye. I now realize why fly balls in the outfield kept bouncing up and down when I played baseball. The eye surgery was a walk in the park compared to the second surgery.

On November 8, my right foot was fused under my big toe because arthritis was so bad there was no joint and I could barely walk. I was humbled by the experience. After the surgery, I felt pain like never before and I have a new appreciation for people who are unable to walk or drive.

Yesterday was my first stand up with a walker shower and today, I will be able for the first time to put 20% weight on my right leg while using a walker. Believe it or not, it’s a little scary.

Ok, my second bit of news is that I have spent the last month in a chair, foot raised with a laptop working on my second novel. It has been an interesting experience. I have been working on this story for four years and have made incredible changes over time. Most recently during my month in the chair, I went back to the first person.

Why am I sharing my novel writing with you? As a favor, I would like for three or four of you to read my draft before I publish it. I still have line editing to do, but I am looking for people who can share if they enjoy reading the story, or suggestions on how I could make it even More interesting. Let me know if you are interested.

Are You an A, B or C Player?

In my career, I worked with dozens of young lawyers, I coached well over 1500 lawyers and I am now helping place lawyers. Interestingly, I am most enjoying placing A Players who have the potential to achieve great things in their career.

Over time, I put lawyers into three main categories: A Players, B Players, and C Players. Let me describe each type because I am willing to bet you fall into one of the three classifications.

C Players

C Players are competent and bright lawyers. They show up about the same time each day and do quality legal work to the best of their ability and they leave at about the same time each day.

For them, being a lawyer is a job and a means to something else in their life. Because they view their work as a job, they do not take responsibility for their careers, they spend very little non-billable time on their career development or on client development.

B Players

B Players are somewhat similar to C Players, except they bill more hours. They work very hard and in some cases burn out prematurely. They focus on what they do rather than what their clients need. They rarely build a team of lawyers working for them because they don’t take time to develop the junior lawyers working with them.

A Players

I was thrilled to have A players in my practice group. I was even more thrilled to coach A players and now help them find the right firm.

A Players have high energy and are extremely motivated. I could tell from their first year that they were future stars. When coaching, I could tell from our first session together they were future stars.

A Players know what they want, take responsibility for their own success and have a plan to achieve their goals. They know when there is a crisis and they pitch in to help without being asked. They have a passion for their work and their clients. Finally, they strive each and every day to become a better lawyer and be more responsive to their clients’ needs

So, which description best fits you?

It was 2003, and I was having a record year. Near the end of the year, two large international law firms with Dallas offices offered me far greater compensation than I was making at my firm.

The difference was significant enough that many lawyers would have jumped to one of the firms just based on the increased compensation. I didn’t. I stayed with my firm one more year and then left to coach lawyers full-time.

I read recently that in a study of lateral partners barely more than half (52.8 %) responded they were “very satisfied” with their new firm. Based on my experience, I believe the laterals who were not “very satisfied” did not know enough about their new firm before making the change.

Lateral partner recruits: How much do you know about the firm that is about to make you an offer? What should you know?

Having been heavily recruited when I practiced law, I came up with questions I wanted to be answered from firms that wanted to make me an offer.  Here are some of those questions:

  1. May I review the firm’s partnership (shareholder) agreement?
  2. How would you describe the firm’s core values?
  3. Does the firm have a strategic plan?
  4. What are your expectations for partners? Associates?
  5. How do you hold your lawyers accountable for what is in the plan?
  6. Does the firm have a marketing plan and a marketing budget?
  7. How does the firm encourage lawyers to engage in client development efforts?
  8. Are associates encouraged to help with client development?
  9. Do your partners have a written business plan with goals?
  10. Do your associates have a development plan or some kind of plan for their non-billable time?
  11. Do you have a plan for cross-selling and expanding relationships with existing clients?
  12. How do you encourage partners to help develop your next generation of successful lawyers?
  13. What is the retention rate for partners?
  14. What is the retention rate for associates?
  15. Does the firm have any debt?
  16. May I see the firm’s financial statements for the last three years?
  17. What is your plan to successfully integrate me into the firm?
  18. How many total number of clients does the firm have, and what percentage of the firm’s business is coming from the top ten clients?

When I was busy practicing law, there came a time when I had an Ah Ha Moment. It was the day I discovered that some of the lawyers who were working for me were pessimists who were not very motivated to succeed. It seems obvious now, but at the time I was surprised.

If you have read my recent posts, you know that when I coached lawyers, I frequently told firm leaders I could not help pessimists or unmotivated lawyers.

Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I have been asked how I can tell if a lawyer I am helping is optimistic and motivated. It’s really pretty simple. I listen to the lawyer.

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “Yes, but…                     Motivated Optimists Say: “Sure how…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “My problem is…          Motivated Optimists Say: “My opportunity is…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I need to…”                  Motivated Optimists Say: “I want to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I will try my best…”      Motivated Optimists Say: “I will achieve…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I can’t find time to…”   Motivated Optimists Say: “I will make time to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: ” I want realistic goals” Motivated Optimists Say: “I want goals that challenge me”

I’m sure you know that I gave many presentations about career success and life fulfillment. If you are interested in taking a look at one of them, check out: Secrets to Career Success and Fulfillment. 

 

A friend of mine recently asked me what has been my biggest surprise since starting my legal recruiting efforts in January.

I thought about it for a very short time. Then I said:

My biggest surprise is how much more money I would have made at some well known regional or mid-sized firms.

Why? I guess there are two reasons.

  1. Lower overhead
  2. Fewer senior lawyers on cruise control making lots of money, but not really working very hard.

I was never motivated by money, (if I had been I would have never left my law firm), but looking back now making more money at the pinnacle of my career would have certainly made Nancy and me more secure at this point.

When I was coaching lawyers, I got to know a great deal about each law firm where I coached. I was extremely impressed with many firms that I doubt I would have considered during my rising career. I really didn’t know much about those firms and now I do.

Suppose you came to me seeking to join a new law firm. And, suppose during our discussion I asked:

What can you tell me about your career and life habits?

Years ago I read Jack Canfield’s book: “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”

In the book he reports that psychologists tell us that 90% of our behavior is habitual. I absolutely agree based on my own experience. If that is true, what are your habits? Are they contributing to your success?

If you are interested in Canfield’s list of principles you can find it here.

Canfield begins Principle 35 with a quote from Ken Blanchard.

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

That’s a powerful stuff.

For years I was committed to my personal fitness. I woke up the same time every morning and went to the fitness club.

Lately, I have only been interested, but not committed, in my physical fitness. I can find many excuses for not working out. Needless to say, working out is no longer part of my daily habits and I am not feeling as well as when it was.

What are your commitments? Are you committed to becoming a better lawyer? Are you committed to providing extraordinary service to your clients? Are you committed to making client development efforts part of your every day habits?

I have been thinking about what the most important habits lawyers should have if 90% of our behavior is habitual. I am considering writing a book describing these habits and why they are important. Here are the habits I believe are important:

  1. Healthy eating and regular exercise
  2. Positive self-talk and attitude
  3. Focus on learning and becoming a better lawyer
  4. Goal setting
  5. Planning non-billable time and using it wisely
  6. Focus on relationships
  7. Understanding client needs
  8. Extraordinary client service
  9. Leading, supervising, delegating and motivating lawyers and staff
  10. Making and keeping commitments

I plan to blog further on habits. Stay tuned if you are interested.

In my new role as a legal recruiter, the first question law firms ask when considering partner candidates is:

Does he/she have clients? (Code for what is the amount of his/her portable business?)

In my role as a recruiter, more often than not I am not placing the lawyers who have $1 million or more in portable business. More often I am placing lawyers who have the potential to have $1 million in business.

So this post is aimed at those lawyers and at the firms that might consider them.

I recently read Jim Connelly’s Marketing blog post: You have no clients. Seriously. Not even one!

Connelly wrote:

Once you’ve earned someone’s custom, trust or attention, it’s just the beginning. If you want to retain their custom, trust and attention, you then need to keep on re-earning it. The moment you begin to think otherwise, you risk becoming complacent.

To put it in lawyer-client terms, Connelly is suggesting that you not focus on obtaining the client, but instead focus on developing the relationship.

I suspect that a natural question may be how do you develop relationships with potential clients and referral sources.

I have always suggested that it was about building trust and rapport. I believe that building trust means demonstrating you are the right lawyer for the legal matter. I believe building rapport means you demonstrate you genuinely care about the person and become interested in him or her beyond the work.

With my own ideas in mind, I went searching for a how-to article/blog post. I found a 2017 Forbes article titled: How To Build Strong Business Relationships. The first thing that struck me was the results of a study:

An essential part of business success is having a strong network. In fact, a Harvard study found that 85% of professional success comes from people skills.

I’m just curious:

  1. What is your firm doing to improve the people skills of your lawyers?
  2. If your firm is doing nothing, what are you doing?