Welcome to part 6 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business.
Reason No. 5 You’re Losing Business:
You don’t know how to say no.
If you don’t have firm guidelines that help you determine which opportunities to accept and which to decline, you’re losing business. That’s true on two levels.
1. Saying yes to one opportunity always means, as a matter of inarguable fact, saying no to something else. Accepting Client A means that you may not have bandwidth available when Client D comes along (or that, if you accept Client D, that time pressures may reduce the quality of your work product or client service). Taking on a leadership role with one organization means that, at least for the time being, you won’t be able to seek a leadership position with another. And choosing to write three articles that will appear before your ideal clients may mean that you’ll have to give up a few hours of sleep.
Choosing to grab one opportunity and let another go for now may be a wise decision or a foolish one. Only by being clear on your objectives can you know which is which. For instance, if you’re accepting a leadership position in a group that’s populated by your ideal clients or referral sources, even giving up a similar opportunity may make sense—unless activity with the second group would deliver an equivalent result with less of a time commitment.
That’s why it’s so important to create a business development plan and to track your activity against it on a regular basis. Your plan will let you weigh an opportunity against your objectives as well as against other opportunities, known and unknown. If you accept an opportunity without due consideration or just because it seems like a good idea and you don’t have anything else planned runs a high risk of getting you sidetracked.
Welcome to part 5 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business.
Reason No. 4 You’re Losing Business:
You don’t invest in your practice.
When I was growing up, I loved a Kingston Trio song called Desert Pete, which taught me the concept of priming a water pump, or using a precious resource (water in this case) to produce more of it. The song’s narrator describes his reluctance to pour water into the pump when he’s so thirsty, but taking that leap of faith pays off.Unsuccessful lawyers resist investing time and money into business development; successful lawyers understand that it takes money to make money and that a practice can never grow without a significant investment of both time and money. If you don’t get this lesson—if you’re tight-fisted with time and money even when using it well would lead to more and better business—you’re losing business. Continue Reading
Welcome to part 4 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“.
Reason No. 3 You’re Losing Business:
You’re indistinguishable from other lawyers.
Very often, clients view one lawyer as essentially indistinguishable from another in the same area of practice. Especially for legally unsophisticated clients, a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer, and as long as she can handle the matter for the client and she “looks” ok—decent website, decent biographical sketch, decent office and staff—the assumption is that the lawyer will be adequate to meet the need. Even for more sophisticated clients who regularly hire lawyers, it can be difficult to find meaningful distinctions between competitors.
You have a way of approaching your practice and your clients that is partly innate and partly developed over the course of your practice. I call this your Attorney Avatar. I’ve identified six Attorney Avatars that describe practitioners: the Personality, the Partner, the Prophet, the Guru, the Guide, and the Gun. Each carries unique attributes and strengths and defines certain areas that will require attention to build a strong practice.
When you understand who you are as a practitioner, you can develop your attributes and characteristics to create a specific and systemized experience that you create for clients and potential clients. Of course, you must marry your clients’ needs with your own approach to practice, but when you keep both in mind you’ll create an experience that is unique to you because it’s driven by your attitudes and beliefs about what makes for a good practice and a good practitioner.
Welcome to part 3 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. To view the previous posts in this series, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“.
Reason No. 2 You’re Losing Business: You don’t really see your clients.
Sure, you see your clients. You have meetings with them, you talk with them by telephone or videoconference. But do you really see your clients? Too many firms and lawyers view their clients as one-dimensional objects of practice. Client numbers are assigned, and the client comes to assume that number as an identity.
You don’t ever intend that to happen, but the press of business can make it hard for you to keep up with clients individually … And that’s why you must have a system in place for making sure that you recognize what’s happening with and for your clients.
This is a problem that’s endemic to rainmakers who are seeking to grow a book of business above all else. You court a potential client. You’re interested, highly responsive, you make an effort to learn about your potential client’s interests, to engage that person in business and personal conversation, to be your most appealing self. And then as soon as you get the matter, that deeply personalized attention drops off because you’re in service mode (which often equates to maintenance mode) while you’re off chasing another client.
Last week I introduced a 10-part article that I’ll serialize in this newsletter. If you missed that introduction, click on the category above titled “Nine Reasons You’re Losing Business“..
Here’s why you’re losing business…
1. You aren’t creating value for your clients.
Let’s assume that you do good work from a substantive perspective and that you deliver that work on time every time. That’s a great start, but it isn’t enough anymore.
Historically, clients have measured value received from an attorney based on the successful outcome of a matter. Did you win the case? Did you get most of what the client wanted in the negotiation or contract? If you did, you delivered value, and clients would usually be satisfied.
Today, however, clients are more sophisticated than ever before. They’re often able to evaluate the cost of the successful outcome in terms of dollars, time, missed opportunities, and resources consumed. Whether that evaluation is correct isn’t the point. The point is that a good outcome is just the tip of the iceberg in value creation.
A longer newsletter than usual this week, with three important sections.
1. A must-read article for those of you working in large firms: Pay Gap Increases Between Equity and Non-Equity Partners. Two brief excerpts will show you why you can’t miss this:
“Equity partners averaged $971,000 in annual compensation, versus $338,000 for nonequity partners, according to MLA’s third biennial survey of what partners are paid at large law firms in the United States. While average pay for equity partners has risen nearly 20 percent from $811,000 since MLA’s first survey in 2010, nonequity pay has remained relatively flat, increasing just $2,000 over the same period.”
“The growing gap between equity and nonequity partner pay mirrors the disparate amount of business the two groups of partners bring to their firms. ‘The correlation between originations and compensation is getting stronger,’ says Alan Olson, a law firm consultant at Altman Weil Inc. Olson says firms are ‘rewarding and investing in those partners that can develop and maintain a remunerative legal business.”
I’ve suggested (and the data supports the idea) that nonequity partners are in a tenuous position unless they’re making a strong record of securing business. This article provides deep insight on this point and data on pay disparities.
2. LAST CALL for The RainMaster Paradigm Revealed: A New Model for Thriving in the Post-Recession Economy, a workshop I’m hosting at the New York City Bar Association on September 23. Visit this link to learn more and to grab one of the few remaining seats for this intimate workshop. (Want to attend but not in NYC? Please hit reply and let me know.)
3. This week marks the start of a 10-week series in this newsletter, titled Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It. I’d originally planned to send it as a single article, but it’s nearly 15 pages long! This week starts with the premise of the article, and you’ll find the problems and solutions over subsequent newsletters.
Last week, I attended a business seminar focused on hiring and managing employees. I was surprised that the program started by asking us attendees to identify our business vision and what we stand for. I was even more surprised to find how difficult that was to do!
You may have heard the distinction between working in your business as opposed to working on your business, popularized by Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. The former is what you do to earn money, and the latter is what you do to design and build your business.
Lawyers, like other business owners, tend to spend your days working in your business: seeing clients, writing documents for client services, having meetings about client projects, and so on. And that’s good and important work, without which the business that is your practice would cease to exist.
I often enjoy the EarlyToRise.com newsletter, which recently included an excerpt from Sharon LaBelle’s book The Art of Living, which distilled Epictetus’s The Virtuous Are Consistent as follows:
“To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy.
It is incumbent that your thoughts, words, and deeds match up. This is a higher standard than that held by the mob. . . When your thoughts, words, and deeds form a seamless fabric, you streamline your efforts and thus eliminate worry and dread. In this way, it is easier to seek goodness than to conduct yourself in a haphazard fashion or according to the feelings of the moment. . .
It’s so simple really: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it.”
Three offerings for you this week.
1. Join me in NYC on September 23 for a 1-day workshop,The RainMaster Paradigm Revealed: A NEW Model for Thriving in the Post-Recession Economy.I’ll explain why becoming a rainmaker is no longer the goal to pursue in the post-recession economy and what you can do instead to build a strong practice. Learn more and registerhere.
2. The next round of Coursera’s Better Leader, Richer Life begins on October 5. This free online course is taught by Steward Friedman and based on his bookTotal Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. If you’ve ever felt like there isn’t enough time for your practice and your family and serving your community and meeting your own personal needs, you can’t afford to miss this opportunity.Click here to register.
Clients often ask me about the business development value of joining a nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and (as with most activities) the value varies depending upon your objectives and the board you might join. In general, board membership can be an excellent way to meet other professionals who may be relevant to your practice and to gain an extra perk for your biographical sketch. And if you join the board of a nonprofit that advances a cause important to you, you may find personal satisfaction as well.
Which board should you join?
Consider organizations that sponsor causes in which you are genuinely interested. You can gain strong contacts from an organization that addresses topics of little matter to you, but when your interests align with the organization’s mission, you will likely connect more deeply with other board members and with the organization’s
membership more generally. In addition, because you will actually be working on the board, real interest will make the hours you invest less of a burden. Continue Reading