Feeling business development pressure?

Over the last several months, I’ve noticed more and more inquiries from lawyers wanting to focus on business development.  Unlike some coaching topics (career path and work/life integration, most notably), law firms often provide some business development training in-house to midlevel and/or senior associates as well as partners.  Many firms even provide coaching from external coaches or from in-house rainmakers.  I’d noticed a trend, with more junior lawyers seeking early business development coaching and even lawyers at firms that offer such training and/or coaching seeking it on their own, willing to pay for private, one-on-one work.  According to an article published in New York Lawyer (free registration required), this is a growing trend.

In suburban kitchens, coffee shops and back tables of restaurants across the city, law firm partners are quietly seeking the help of business development and marketing professionals on how to get out from under the shadow of that more senior partner and build their own book of business.

While it might not be as sinister as that description sounds, there is a palpable fear among some fairly high-level partners in the city’s largest firms about what their future holds. Now those partners are trying to take control of their own destiny.

In talking to a number of marketers, coaches and recruiters, there is a clear sense that in these economic times, having a portable book of business is increasingly important.

Firms are threatening de-equitizations, in-house marketing departments are facing budget cuts and partners are hoarding work more now than in the past five years, according to these industry analysts.

Given the current economy, it’s no surprise that lawyers are concerned about career potential, whether with the current firm or looking toward a new one.  If you’re in a large or midsized firm and you aren’t receiving business development attention, perhaps now would be a good time to investigate what’s available to you, through your firm or otherwise.

6 options for anger management

Lawyers who are or aspire to be leaders must learn to self-manage.  Especially when stressed or under pressure (and who isn’t, at least part of the time?) it’s easy to let self-management slide in the face of provocation.  Some attorneys I know offer a blanket apology to staff and colleagues — something like, “I’m feeling stressed, so please excuse me if I blow up or yell at you or throw things, ok?”  I don’t recommend that approach; it’s been than nothing, I suppose, but it’s actually announcing that bad behavior is coming, apparently largely unchecked.

Let’s be real: attorneys are often faced with statements, actions, arguments, behavior, etc. that is galling in the extreme. It’s a common practice in litigation among some to make an effort to find their opponents’ hot buttons; push the button and out pops an ugly, crazy person – not someone a jury would respect or believe. (Same goes for witnesses, too.)  So how can you handle it when faced with provocation that would make the Buddha quiver with rage?

1. Keep your attention on the motivation behind the provocation. Is the person who’s enraging you doing it intentionally, or is it a by-product of words or behavior that he likely thinks perfectly appropriate? If it’s the former, don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he succeeded. If it’s the latter, consider whether displaying annoyance would stop the behavior or simply let your opponent know that he’s found a soft spot.

2. Breathe. This is great advice for just about any situation, but it’s especially good for dealing with anger. You can react, which implies knee-jerk emotional feedback made without any reflection, or you can respond, which implies feedback that follows a pause and analysis/reflection to determine the best way to address the provocation. It’s far better to respond than to react. There’s no reason why you can’t fall silent for a few seconds (which may feel interminable to you and your opponent) while you work through your options.

3. Speak softly. Most of us tend to raise our voices when we speak in anger. Therefore, it’s disarming to do the opposite and to speak more quietly. The effect is to appear reasonable and controlled (especially helpful if your opponent is ranting and raving and appearing to be out of control) and to force your opponent to listen carefully to hear what you have to say. I am informed that in Japanese culture, when two parties are arguing, the one who raises her voice first loses. It’s a difficult tactic for many of us to master, but if you can speak softly in the face of provocation, you will stand a much better chance of controlling your anger.

4. Vent. Express your anger in some forum that poses no risk of exposing it. Writing can be helpful, but especially if you write an angry response to an email, be sure that you don’t accidentally send it!

5. Exercise. That’s physical venting. When feasible, it’s a great idea to get up and take a walk instead of marinating in a situation that makes you angry.

6. Selective release of anger. Sometimes, it’s absolutely appropriate to express your anger at the person whose behavior has caused it. But consider the consequences of such an expression. Will you disrupt a relationship? Do you stand to lose ground? Will your expressed anger cause the person to react in a way that will cause you even more trouble? And when you do choose to display anger, consider doing so through your words only but continuing to speak in a low, even tone of voice. That will reinforce the gravity of your words.

And, despite our best efforts at these tactics, all of us lose our tempers sometimes. Especially in time of frustration and stress, it’s easy to let it slip, despite best efforts. When that happens, don’t be afraid to apologize and admit to being human.

Social networking, yea or nay: Part 2

Just a few months ago, I wrote a blog entry titled, Social networking, yea or nay?, in which I reviewed an issue of Law Practice Management that featured several article advocating the use of social networking.  Since then, I’ve networked on LinkedIn and I even set up a Facebook profile, though I drew the line at Twitter — microblogging is not for me.  Meanwhile, I’m getting pelted with Plaxo requests and trying to figure out how social networking can work for me.  My next step was to listen to a few teleseminars, on how to use Facebook and LinkedIn, and I was aghast at the amount of time people were spending.  An hour or two a day???  Is it just me, or does that sound insane to anyone else?

So I was mightily curious when I saw a recent article by Larry Bodine titled, Is the Party Over for Social Networking?  Larry starts out like this:

What if you gave a party, hundreds of people showed up, but almost nobody talked to each other? That describes the state of social networking for lawyers on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and the new Plaxo Pulse. The masses get the idea, but only the evangelists are using it.

Ah, so it isn’t just me.  Citing research by the ABA about the online networking habits of young lawyers, Bodine concludes that few lawyers (only 8% of the young lawyer respondents, who might be presumed to be early adopters of such technology) find social networking important.  LinkedIn seems to be the professional tool of choice for lawyers (at least, “old” lawyers, which I fear means those over 30 or so), and Facebook seems to be preferred for personal use and by younger lawyers.

But here’s my question: other than using these tools to update contact information, employers, and the like, what are lawyers doing with social networking?  As a teen and college student, and even into law school, I used to play online and met some dear friends that way, through forerunners of IM technology, so I’m certainly not opposed to it — and I’d certainly prefer to network online while sipping good coffee than to schlep to another breakfast networking event (usually, it seems, in the rain) in hopes of making a connection.  I just don’t get how it works.

And so, I’m going to try an experiment.  I have one more week of very heavy travel, and then I’ll have a bit of a pause, when I’ll be in my office with computer handy for most days of May.  So, I’m going to give social networking a shot for the month of May and see what happens.

As I prepare, I invite your comments.  Do you use social networking sites?  Do you find them fun and/or professionally useful?  What’s your favorite site?  How much time do you spend on social networking?  I’ll keep you posted on what I learn!

(And, an aside about the blog: one of the kinks yet to be worked out is image-posting.  They will return!)

What’s the difference between leadership and management – and why does it matter?

In listening to conversations about leadership development, I’ve noticed a tendency that at first I attributed to a slip of the tongue. People say things like, “So good management – I mean, leadership – requires [this that and the other].” Some people even suggest that management and leadership are really the same thing and that “leadership” sounds more enticing, so more lawyers (both at the associate and partner/management levels) are willing to play along.

I completely disagree.  Management is an important skill. “Management” derives from the Latin manu “hand” and from the Italian word maneggiare, meaning “to handle.” One who manages defines a goal or adopts a goal defined by someone else, creates a process or an approach to accomplish the goal, and uses rewards and consequences to get team members to do what’s necessary to get there. A manager typically determines how to reach the goal and requires the subordinates to work according to that plan. Often in a law firm, management is a “horizontal” approach, meaning that managers fall into a defined group and those

managers oversee the work of subordinates.

Leadership does bear some similarities to management, especially because leadership may exist in a variety of styles, some of which bear particular resemblance to management. “To lead” derives from the Old English word lædan, meaning to “cause to go with one” and which in turn derives from liðan, “to travel.” One who leads is acting on a goal that has been defined as the organization’s goal, and the attainment of that goal is generally most effective when the members of the organization have mutually adopted the goal. A leader works with the organization’s members to call forth their best efforts to reach the goal and generally leaves some latitude in how the members choose to approach their tasks. Leadership may also be considered as a “vertical” approach, in which a leader works with subordinates to develop their own abilities so that they may ascend to leadership as well.

Much has been written on the distinctions between management and leadership, and I certainly won’t seek to recapitulate that work. However, simply looking at the derivation of the words – “to handle” as opposed to “to cause to go with one” – gives a sense of the differences.

So, what does this mean in practice? Recognizing that management and leadership draw on different skills opens the opportunity to decide which set of skills to apply in any given situation. Under some circumstances, management may be necessary to accomplish a set of tasks quickly and in compliance with a particular expectation, perhaps in pulling together a comprehensive case outline for a status conference. Other situations may benefit from leadership, such as setting the strategy for a matter when a team seeks to accomplish a particular goal for a client and each member may have insights or creative ideas of how to do so.

Test this yourself. For the next couple of weeks, when you’re supervising others in some ways, consider whether management or leadership would be most effective. Make a few notes in your journal or on your computer about the situation, what factors cause you think that management (or leadership) will create the best results, how you choose to manage (or lead), and what results the team realizes. This planning and reflection should take less than 10 minutes total, but the insight you’ll gain will be significant.

(This post was drawn from an article published in this week’s Leadership Matters for Lawyers, a weekly e-newsletter that provides articles and resources designed to boost readers’ leadership abilities and practice. Please click on the box below to view past issues and to subscribe to Leadership Matters to Lawyers.)

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Think back to elementary school.  My guess is (depending on your generation), when the teacher called roll most students responded by saying, “Here!”  And usually, especially by 5th grade or so, one wise guy (were there gunners in elementary school?!) would respond by answering, “Present!”  The other kids would snicker and the teacher might look up with that slightly annoyed look.  But, you know what?  That kid was onto something, as an email I received recently reminded me.

A group I belong to has been trying to arrange a telephone meeting, and one colleague recently responded to a tentative date by saying, “I’ll be there, and I’ll do my best to be present.”  Present implies being focused on matters at hand, not distracted by what went on before the meeting began or what’s coming up next, not thinking about what’s for dinner or how to get in the CLE before the deadline, or any of the myriad of things that may zip through at any given moment.  It’s paying attention, being dialed in to what’s really happening at both the surface and underlying levels.

“Present” versus “Here” is the point of meditation and centering practices, at least to this beginner.  It’s choosing to focus the mind on one thing, whether that’s breath or a word or phrase, and choosing gently to push away other thoughts that intrude.  And those practices train the mind to remain present at other times.

Now, imagine a large-scale negotiation, case status meeting, or the like.  A big conference table with lots of lawyers seated around it, or (perhaps more challengingly) a telephone conference, with people dialing in from different offices arond the country or around the world.  Imagine someone taking roll midway through the meeting.  How can you ensure you’d respond with “Present”?

Internal client development

Generally speaking, law firms use the phrase “client development” to refer to the process of signing clients that the firm will represent in litigation, transactions, etc.  Today, I’d like to consider another type of client development associates must consider: internal client development.

As an associate, particularly a junior associate who receives work from more senior lawyers, you must consider two kinds of clients: those who are external, meaning the people we typically call clients, and those who are internal, meaning those firm attorneys for whom you do work, your supervising attorneys.  The more junior you are, the more important your internal client development skills are and the longer those skills may serve you.  Let’s consider an example.

Two associates, Ellen and Mary, begin with a firm at the same time.  Both are bright and eager to learn.  Ellen is gregarious, always chatting with more senior associates and partners about work, current events, whatever.  She enjoys discussing the cases she and others are working on, and as a result a lot of the firm’s lawyers tend to know what she’s working on and to have some idea of how she approaches her work.  When Ellen hears about someone who’s working on a case that interests her, she finds a time to talk with that attorney and offers to help if there’s anything she can do.  Mary tends to be shy, friendly when someone speaks to her but not someone who will seek out conversation.  She does very good work, and she prefers not “bother” the lawyer who assigns work until she’s finished unless she has a question.  Mary talks often with the other lawyers staffed on her cases, but she doesn’t interact too much with other members of the firm.

When a case comes in that would be equally appropriate for both Ellen and Mary, who do you think is more likely to get assigned to it?  I’d suspect it’ll be Ellen, if all other things are equal, because Ellen has been working on her internal client development.  A partner is more likely to know what Ellen’s workload is, to know how she approaches her work, to know how she gets along with other members of the firm, and to know enough about her to be comfortable working with her.  Although Mary may do equally good work, by failing to put herself in front of the other lawyers in the firm on a regular basis, they are less likely to think of her, and she’s less likely to get the assignments.

So, what do you do if you recognize that you’re like Mary?  First, go back to the business truism that, all other things being equal, people prefer to work with those they know, like, and trust.  (In a law firm, performing excellent work is the baseline, so be sure you meet that standard.  Otherwise, no amount of being known and liked will be sufficient to override the lack of trust that poor work product will bring.)

Set out on a campaign to become known, liked, and trusted – but start by getting to know, like, and trust other members of your firm.  Go to the cocktail parties.  Eat lunch in the firm cafeteria if you have one, and make it a habit to invite another lawyer out to lunch at least once a week.  Be genuinely interested in the other attorneys in your firm, both professionally and personally.  Perhaps the partner has a son who plays Little League, and it can make a difference if you remember to ask how the game was when you know the partner left early to attend it.  Discuss your cases, chew over a thorny legal issue with a colleague, and ask what cases others have going.  With a effort and authenticity, this approach will put you on good terms with others in your office and you too will be at the top of assigning attorneys’ minds when a new case comes in the door.

And for those who feel that this is a mercenary approach, there’s one other key benefit: your work life will almost certainly improve.  True, you won’t be best friends with everyone (or perhaps anyone) in the office, but spending long days at work is more enjoyable when there’s a sense of camaraderie.  Camaraderie comes from – you guessed it – knowing and liking those with whom you work and fostering a sense of being on the same team.

This internal networking is, of course, only one side of internal client development.  Other aspects of internal client development include building a strong reputation, becoming an expert in a niche area, developing skills faster than your classmates, and last (but certainly not least), asking for the work.

Be aware of your opportunities for internal client development: as a junior associate, you can position yourself as the go-to person in your associate class and you can get superior experience in a relatively short time.  If you’re one of the rare associates who stays at a single firm for the bulk of your career, internal client development will propel toward partnership much faster and with a much higher chance of success.  If you move to another firm, internal client development can pay off in helping you find a new position and in positioning you for referrals from your old firm in case of conflicts.  It’s a win/win proposition.�

A favorite relationship-building tactic

A few days ago, I posted on the difference between strategy and tactics and recommended identifying strategy first and then move to tactics.  Selecting effective tactics depends, of course, on the strategy and the ultimate goal.  Building relationships almost always comes into play, though.  Strong client relationships form the foundation of a healthy practice; strong collegial relationships are a key component of a satisfying professional life; strong professional relationships create openings for a variety of career opportunities.  Today, I’d like to share one tactic that I’ve found indispensable for relationship-building.

Think back to the last time you received a hand-written note.  They stand out, don’t they?  Penmanship catches special attention these days, when even wedding invitations are often computer-addressed.  Personal notes are usually a different size and shape from ordinary business correspondence, and when I receive one, I always pause because it’s so unexpected.  Have you received a hand-written note this week?  No?  Well, you aren’t alone — far from it — and there’s your opportunity.

Because it’s out of the ordinary, a note generates attention that an email never will.  I like sending notes “just because,” to thank someone for a kindness, or to pass on something of interest to the recipient.  Notes create personal connection.  Because they’re tangible and reflect energy expended, a hand-written note demonstrates that, at least for the time it took to write and mail the note, the recipient was top-of-mind.  It’s nice to be thought of that way, and that thoughtfulness will generate a positive association and begin (or continue) the process of relationship-building.  I imagine my clients get tired of hearing me suggest, “why not drop him a note?”  But I know, and they discover, the positive results that often follow.


What’s your strategy?

Following on last week’s post examining the roles of strategy and opportunity in career planning and business development, today considers strategy vs. tactics.  Assuming that you find value in applying strategy to your own efforts rather than drifting along and hoping for the best, step one is to set the strategy.   Obvious, right?  Well…

We tend to use the words “strategy” and “tactics” more or less interchangeably.  Litigators refer to trial strategy or the tactical approach, for example, to mean roughly the same thing.  However, using those words more precisely would generate “tactics” that are short-term  or intermediate steps designed to implement the “strategy,” meaning the long-term plan.

Pop quiz: grab a pen and paper and take no more than 60 seconds to list all of the tactics you’re using for business development, professional development, or career planning.  You might list things like speaking at a CLE conference, attending a NITA workshop, or being active with a local bar association.  List as many as you can in the 60 seconds, and include the tactics you’d like to implement, even if you haven’t done so already.

Done?  Great!  Now, take 60 seconds and list all of the strategies you have in the same endeavor.  Taking client development as an example, maybe your strategy is to be the premier immigration lawyer for the Hispanic community in your region.  What strategies are you working on?

If you’re like many lawyers, your tactics list will be long, and your strategies list short or nonexistent.  Why does it matter?  Because no matter how terrific your tactics may be, if your strategy isn’t clearly defined, you may not get the results you’re seeking.  However well you may climb on the “ladder of success,” you’ll end up where you want to be only if your ladder is propped against the right wall, to use Stephen Covey’s terrific analogy.

So, make it a point to pause and set your strategy… And then to identify the tactics you’ll use to get there.