A number of my clients recently seemed to hit a brick wall with their business development plans. Nothing was wrong, exactly; but progress was much slower than it had been in the past, and my clients seemed to have a certain malaise. In each case, problem solving revealed no problem with the plans themselves, but one key issue: uncertainty about the ideal result.

Here’s the issue: without clarity and a certain excitement about the preferred practice setting, the preferred number of clients and matters, the preferred kind of client and matter, and so on, business development is almost destined to fail. That isn’t an airy-fairy “thoughts become things” assertion. Instead, it’s the result of two truths.

  1. Business development is a simple process, but usually not an easy process.
  2. If you don’t know exactly what you want and why, business development challenges that might otherwise be overcome will seem insurmountable because you don’t know clearly what it is or because you don’t want it enough.

Certain telltale signs reveal this lack of clarity.


If your business development progress has slowed, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a high achiever who’s suddenly feeling meh about the goals you’ve set?
  • Does business development work that seemed doable in the past suddenly seem unusually difficult?
  • Do you find yourself unwilling or unable to make the time for business development activity?
  • Do you know what to do to grow your practice, but find yourself resistant to taking those steps?

If you responded “yes” to more than one of these questions, something is out of kilter. Very often, that something is a mismatch between what you say you want and what you actually want or a lack of clarity about your objectives and how your business development plan will get you there.

To get clear on your objectives, ask yourself what you want from your practice in terms of your subject matter, your practice setting, the kinds of clients with whom you want to work (and those with whom you do not want to work), the kind of matters you enjoy, how much time you want to spend working, how much money you want to make, what you want your day-to-day professional life to look like, and what you want your personal life to look like. You’ll know you’ve got clear objectives when you can describe the practice you’re aiming for and how it fits into your life with clarity, and you’ll know your objectives are right for you when that description gives you a sense of excitement or satisfaction.

If you’re at a standstill, stop beating yourself up and start asking questions. I have yet to meet a lawyer who simply cannot build a practice, but I’ve met a lot who actually don’t want to build a practice or who want something that isn’t likely to result from executing the business development plan they’ve created.

So… What do you want from your practice?