The topic of commitment has been coming up over and over in the last few weeks. What’s the first thing you think when you think of commitment in the context of your practice? Without commitment in three particular areas, success is unlikely.
Commitment to business development. To get consistent results in building your practice, you must be consistent with your business development efforts.
When I consult with a potential client who wants to secure more work, I always ask questions to uncover not just what business development activities they’ve tried, but how consistently they’ve tried them. That’s because when a practice is underperforming, consistency is always lacking.
- Calendar your plans and keep a checklist, divided into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activity. This kind of reminder keeps you from leaving your activity up to chance. It also avoids allowing your activity to slip when some change in outside circumstances might undermine habits you’ve developed.
One of my former clients wrote articles for a publication every other month for several years, but when the journal that published those articles closed, he neglected to put writing for publication on his checklist, and guess what? He quit writing. He found a couple of journals that were eager to publish his articles and added writing to his quarterly task list so it wouldn’t slip through the cracks again, and his stalled list of publications began growing again. Checklists and schedules will help to keep activity consistent.
- Commitment to clients. I have observed lawyers who are so committed to growing their practices that they focus almost solely on getting the next new client, leaving behind current clients. Legal ethics rules mandate a minimum level of client service, but when’s the last time you felt good about receiving merely adequate service?
If you want to succeed in practice, make it your habit to create value for your clients through exceptional client service. That means providing the substantive service the client needs, plus providing it in a way that surpasses need. Every lawyer will do this in a different way that suits the lawyer, the practice, and the client. A few ideas: be proactive, share information, educate your clients about topics that are relevant to their needs, and look for opportunities to introduce your clients to other professionals they should know.
Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable has many ideas on crafting service that will delight your clients.
- Commitment to succeeding in the business of practicing law. What’s your backup plan if your practice doesn’t prosper? Many lawyers, risk-averse by nature and training, need to have a backup plan to feel secure, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, having a fallback can be a sign of serious trouble.
I once spoke with a lawyer who told me that she was excited about moving in-house, but that if things didn’t go well, she could always go back to the firm she was leaving. Plan B so permeated our conversation that I virtually guarantee she’ll be back at the job within a year. And that’s ok, except that she’ll return with a feeling of failure if she doesn’t recognize that she was never really committed to building her own practice. (I would be remiss not to note, though, that without a book of business, she may find it difficult or impossible to return to private practice or to return at the same level she held when she left. That’s part of the business of practicing law as well.)
- If you start every week (or every day or every project) with Plan B in mind, that’s where you’ll end up before you know it.
So, where’s your commitment level in each of these areas? You only have three options with respect to these three areas of business: get committed, find an alternative, or look for another way to practice law.