What Are You Thinking?

How do you regard business development activity?
Do you believe you can succeed? Is the wolf at the door, waiting to devour your practice if you fail? Is bringing in new business a “nice to have” activity, or is it a critical stepping stone for you? Are your clients fortunate to have you on their side?

To some lawyers’ surprise, the answers to these questions influence (sometimes heavily) the chances of success.

Attitude or mindset is a “soft” characteristic of rainmakers. It’s easy to ignore or dismiss as touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo. However, I’ve seen lawyers over and over demonstrate how critical it is to have a positive attitude toward business development…and NOT because a positive attitude will attract good results to you or will somehow magically predispose clients to your office.

Attitude matters because it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Believe you’re not good at business development? Every setback will prove you right. Believe clients aren’t looking for someone like you? Every cool response will convince you even more.

But if you believe that you bring useful skills and knowledge to your clients, if you believe that you can develop the business you need for a thriving practice, chances are that you will persevere until you prove that correct as well.

Over the almost seven years that I’ve been working with lawyers (and in reflecting on my own experience), I’ve identified three aspects of attitude that may impact rainmaking efforts’ outcome.

1. Do you believe you can succeed? I occasionally tell lawyers that the third client they land is the most important. The first two you might dismiss as mere good luck or being in the right place at the right time, but when you sign the third client, you know that you’re doing something right.

Before you have concrete proof of your ability to bring in business, how you measure your results can have significant influence on your future performance. Low volume, higher fee practices tend to take much longer to develop than high volume, lower fee practices. If you measure your results in terms of activity that moves the biz dev ball forward, even if it hasn’t yet led to business, you’ll raise your confidence in your abilities in an appropriate manner.

As you define your goals, then, bear in mind what makes sense for you to measure. In some practices, you should start by measuring the influx of business right away. (That applies to, for example, sole practices that need income to survive and those who’ve already developed some business but are now seeking to grow and systemize their activity and client pipeline.) In others, you should start by measuring meetings with potential clients or referral sources, the growth of relationships with current clients, or advancement in leadership in targeted organizations.

2. Do you believe you know enough to get started? Because lawyers tend to be risk-averse, we have an inclination to approach important tasks with “read the manual, aim, aim, aim, read the manual again, ready, aim again” — perhaps never getting to fire.

Assess realistically what you need to know before you start your rainmaker activity. My suggestion is that you know how to define your practice in a way that communicates clearly to your would-be clients and referral sources. Get started with that, and then work in everything else.

There are terrific books and programs available on business development and you should take advantage of those learning opportunities in conjunction with your activity. But don’t wait until you’ve read all the books and attended all the programs and created a flawless business development program. Start now.

3. Why do you do business development? If your answer is “because I know I have to”, you need to dig deeper and find a reason that inspires you. Do you want to change your clients’ lives or businesses? Do you want to impact an area of the law or industry? Do you want to become a partner in your firm, to move to another firm, or to start your own practice? Do you want to buy beachfront property? Do you want to pay off your parents’ mortgage?

When you get tired of business development — and you will — you need to have a reason that will inspire you to keep going. I recommend you come up with several reasons that hit on several levels. For example, some of my personal goals are to reach the lawyers we as a society need and help them learn to build a successful practice so they don’t give up, to buy a summer house in Wyoming, and to fund a promise to send a class of underprivileged kindergartners to college. On some days, I conclude that I’ll just stay in motels when I visit Wyoming and lawyers will just have to take care of themselves, but the image of those little faces (whom I have yet to meet) keeps me going.

Don’t misunderstand: you must have more than a good attitude to succeed in business development. I don’t believe that envisioning something will make it happen without any effort.  But I do believe that a positive attitude makes it easier to put in the work and to keep going when it would be easier to stop.  I’ve seen it over and over with my clients and myself.

How about you? Take just a few minutes to check your own attitude.  If you find it not as strong as you’d like, work on building a better attitude.  Attitude is a soft attribute that can help you to attain real success.

Tips to Simplify Legal Newsletters

Newsletters offer a way to stay in contact with a large number of contacts easily, consistently, and productively.
Newsletters focus on substantive information, and assuming you’ve defined your areas of practice carefully enough, your content will be valuable to recipients and therefore welcome. Better yet, if your topics are timely and if you include an appropriate call to action, you may even receive requests for assistance on matters related to your writing.

Most firms have multiple newsletters tailored to their various areas of practice, often with multiple contributors. Whether you’re responsible for coordinating the content for your firm’s (or team’s) newsletter or you’re a sole practitioner with soup-to-nuts responsibility for the newsletter, you’ve probably had more than a few hair-raising moments wondering how you can possibly get it all done. (And if your firm doesn’t have a newsletter, I can virtually guarantee that fear is the top reason why not.)

So, let’s make newsletters simple. These five tips and resources will reduce the time and angst required to produce a newsletter that delivers results.

1. Repurpose presentations and articles
you have written for publication elsewhere into newsletter content. Shorter articles tend to be more useful, especially in electronic newsletters, so you can often get several issues of content from a single article.

2. Keep a list of generic questions your clients ask and turn the responses into newsletter articles. You must make certain that no one interprets your article as legal advice for them (check your local ethics rules to be sure you’re in compliance) but with appropriate language, you can easily create useful information based on frequently asked questions.

3. Use social media to “listen” for topics you should cover. You may find news or op-ed pieces you’d like to address, and by catching hot topics, you’re increasing the chance that your readers will be interested.

4. Include the “so what” for news. It’s hard to offer unique breaking news that isn’t being covered by journalists, bloggers, and other newsletters, but you can one-up many other reports by including some analysis and commentary of the news. In other words, let others handle the details of who, what when, where, and how. You focus on the why and so what.

5. Source your content from a good outside vendor. In the past, I would not have recommended using pre-written articles because they’re generally easy to identify a mile away. Generic and often not written for the audience to whom they’re sent, bad pre-written articles that are simply dropped into a template will not help your marketing efforts and may indeed inflict terminal damage.

But I recently learned about a content provider that offers well-written articles that can (and really should) be edited so that they offer good information with your unique voice and perspective.

Insight in Motion, an offering from Amicus Media, offers articles written by lawyers on topics currently including estate planning, family law, bankruptcy, immigration, and personal injury. (I’ve urged them to include intellectual property soon — we’ll see!) I’ve reviewed the articles and I’m impressed with the information presented and the way the content is presented.

Offering two levels of subscriptions based on the number of legal articles you need each month and number of practice areas, Insight in Motion provides a “keep it simple” approach at a reasonable price. Even better, the company will create a customized newsletter template and send your newsletters if you’d like. The content can even be published on your firm’s website or blog.

I took a thorough tour of the system and asked the same questions you likely would, and I’m impressed. If your practice falls within the areas that Insight in Motion covers and you’ve been holding off on creating a newsletter, this may be your golden opportunity.

For more information on Insight in Motion, visit this page.

And in case you’re wondering: no, I will not receive any affiliate fees or other incentive if you enroll in Insight in Motion.

Which of these tips can you use to make your newsletter strategy simpler?

How Thin Is YOUR Margin?

Michael Hyatt is one of my favorite leadership bloggers. The chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt holds the belief that leaders must be thoughtful and purposeful, and his posts range from philosophical to tactical.

One post this week has been so impactful for me that I have to share it with you: How to Create More Margin in Your Life. “Margin” describes intentionally-created space in a schedule, designed to accommodate the unexpected. As Hyatt writes:

❝Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. (Perhaps you don’t even realize this.)

That’s why creating or re-visiting your Ideal Week is so important.❞

Hyatt explains how to design an Ideal Week schedule that takes into account daily themes (Fridays for appointments, for example) and daily focus times for each domain of life (self, work, and family/friends/planning). He then schedules key times based on his goals and priorities (and these times are broadly described), leaving “margin” for the unexpected.

I’d tweak this approach, to allow for daily margin during the regular workday. In other words, rather than scheduling a full four hours for writing, I’d set aside three hours as a fairly non-negotiable minimum I’d expect to attain each day, and then block the fourth hour for margin. On an ordinary day, that fourth hour might be occupied with writing as well, but it could also be devoted to the priority question from a client that requires time for a response.

I highly recommend Hyatt’s post as a source of both inspiration and direction on time management. By blocking time for what matters most, leaving time open for the things that inevitably crop up, and seeding accountability (by directing that you share the Ideal Week with your team), Hyatt has created a tool that will be useful for getting the “must do” tasks done without getting burned out.